BATON ROUGE, La. - Five candidates for Louisiana's gubernatorial race, both Democrats and Republicans, pitched their ideas to oil and gas industry members at a forum hosted by the Grow Louisiana Coalition. The candidates discussed issues like energy policies, job creation, education, and Louisiana's economy.
State Senator Sharon Hewitt, Republican candidate, proposed getting rid of the coastal lawsuits facing the industry, saying, "Let’s end the coastal lawsuits, tell the industry and those that had left our state, that our state's open for business and we want you back."
Hunter Lundy, an Independent candidate, criticized past government leaders for failing to enforce compliance during the Jindal years, in which Stephen Waguespack, another Republican candidate, was chief of staff for part of the period. Lundy proposed policies that take a long-term view of energy sustainability, stating, "I'm not running for the next four years, I'm looking at 40 years down the road."
State Representative Richard Nelson, also a Republican, focused on job creation and education. Nelson believes that Louisiana's high schools should collaborate more closely with industry and local universities. "Our high schools need to do a better job of opening up their doors and bringing in industry, bringing in the local two-year school, bringing in the local four-year school," Nelson said.
Democrat Dr. Shawn Wilson emphasized the importance of Louisiana's people and their "tenacity" to lead and deliver in new spaces. He also highlighted the need for better STEM education, saying, "It's going to take our ability to take something that’s very complicated and make it fun, make it exciting, throughout the educational career from K-12."
Waguespack, the former head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, talked about the emerging energy investments in Louisiana and the importance of investing in the local people who know how to service them. He also criticized Attorney General Jeff Landry and Treasurer John Schroder, who were absent from the forum.
The candidates also discussed the Industrial Tax Exemption Program and the need for tax code reform.
"I want to give our kids and our grandkids a reason to stay in Louisiana and not a reason to leave," said Sen. Hewitt.
"I have the most world experience, and I've done everything...you'll understand I'll be the best governor you've ever had," said Lundy.
Rep. Nelson promised to change the tax code and focus on education. "I will focus every day on education," he said.
"I am sick and tired of the brain drain," said Dr. Wilson.
Waguespack urged the crowd to vote for change, saying, "if you want the state to continue to be mediocre there are other people that you can vote for, but if you really want to change the direction of this state, then I need your help."