East Baton Rouge state senate candidates on the issues

Five candidates running to replace term-limited State Senator Dan Claitor

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Press Club hosted a forum Monday, Aug. 26 for the five candidates running to fill the open seat in Senate District 16.

The seat has been occupied by Sen. Dan Claitor, a Republican who is term-limited. Election day is Oct. 12.

The three Republicans running are Rep. Steve Carter, Rep. Franklin Foil, and Bob Bell. Dr. Beverly Brooks Thompson is the lone Democrat, and Everett Baudean is the lone Libertarian.

Here are excerpts of each candidate’s response to questions from the media:

What is your top priority?

Foil: “By far, to get the fiscal situation under control. That’s why you have people now supporting the constitutional convention from all spectrums, because people are tired of the ups and downs in the instability in the budget.”

Brooks Thompson: “I think the number one priority has to be a constitutional convention so that we can take care of the fiscal disaster that we find ourselves in year after year. We are balancing the budget on the backs of our students every day and on the backs of our most vulnerable.”

Baudean: “I would agree that the fiscal problems we face are very significant. I’d also say one of the most important things we need to focus on is continuing to move toward more criminal justice reform.”

Bell: “I’d agree that we need a constitutional convention. We need to at least modify some of the existing parts of the constitution to allow more flexibility to the legislature to manage finances realistically. At the same time, we can’t wait for a new constitution.”

Carter: “I would say a constitutional convention, but the problem we have ... is it’s very difficult to determine who the delegates will be because the delegates want to continue to protect what they’ve got. Restructuring our entire tax code is very necessary, whether its by a constitutional convention or by legislation.”

Where do you stand on St. George?

Bell: “I think it’s a basic right to form your own municipality. Central was allowed to do this. It’s perfectly legal. I don’t see why the people in St. George can’t do it if they choose to vote for it.”

Carter: “There’s nothing we can do right now about it. The only thing we can do is sit back, see how the vote is, and whatever happens - we need to continue to try to work together to solve the problem.”

Foil: “We have laws in place on how people in unincorporated areas petition to become incorporated. As long as the people follow that law, I think they should have the right to vote. It’s a democratic process to let them decide what they want to do moving forward."

Brooks Thompson: “I do believe in a people’s right to assemble and I do believe in putting things on the ballot that affect people, but I will hold you accountable and I’ll be courageous and say ‘We are better together.' ... If I were given the opportunity to vote, I’d vote against it."

Baudean: “People should have the right to choose their own destiny and government as much as possible. I, as well as many other libertarians, generally favor more of an emphasis on bottom-up, local control over people’s lives, as opposed to top-down state or federal control.”

Would you vote for a bill to roll back the state’s .45% sales tax extension over time?

Carter: “We have been taxed enough, and we have a surplus ... Would I vote for it in the future? It would depend on any reforms that we do ... I also feel like we either need to have a constitutional convention or we need to have some legislation to reform our tax codes ... Without reform, I’m not going to vote for anything."

Foil: “We did have a $300 million surplus last year. If we are having surpluses, I think we need to make the adjustments and send the money back to the people. I am all for fiscal reform ... If you’re going to have real fiscal reform, you’re going to have to open up the constitution and put everything on the table."

Brooks Thompson: “Seeing that I have not been in the legislature, I’ll let the record speak for itself as for who votes for taxes and who doesn’t vote for taxes. Like Franklin (Foil), I do agree we need a constitutional convention ... I won’t support new taxes unless they’re holistically dedicated to the projects that are funded."

Baudean: “As much as the libertarians, myself included, do not support new taxes, I also would not support cutting taxes if we do not also drastically cut spending - shrinking the size of government.”

Bell: “Reducing taxes is one of the major elements of my plan. I would not limit my efforts to just voting for that bill."

What would be your priorities in the senate to improve traffic in Baton Rouge?

Brooks Thompson: “Clearly, we need a new bridge. There a multitude of ways to get to a new solution. That could be public-private partnerships, that could be a gas tax ... We have to make sure there is money available so that when the feds drop money down, we’re able capture that funding.”

Baudean: “Everyone generally agrees that we need better roads and better traffic conditions in Baton Rouge, meanwhile the state is spending a great deal of money on a lot of things we don’t even like ... I see roads being worked on that aren’t necessarily the roads that need fixing. We need more accountability in determining where the state dollars need to be spent, not just to spend more dollars.”

Bell: “If you take the money that’s supposed to be going to roads and bridges and you spend it on something for 30 years, it’s a tremendous hole. The first thing we’ve got to do is get the state gas tax to (paying for) roads and bridges, then you can bond it.”

Carter: “I’m going to answer it with one word: Courage. We have attempted to try to pass a gas tax. I consider it an infrastructure tax because I think it’s a savings tax for all of you in this room ... Courage is what it’s going to take."

Foil: “We need a new bridge south of town ... If we use a gas tax, or state funding, that’s part of the mix. We need to make sure that money goes to a new bridge. Even more importantly, I’ve tried to advocate that we come together and try to support some of these public-private arrangements.”

What would you do to improve the lives of average working men and women?

Bell: “When you’ve got to get your car inspected, you have to take time off from work to do that because the inspection stations close at 4:30 in the afternoon ... You need to change the schedule to accommodate the people, not to accommodate the government.”

Carter: “Either through a constitutional convention or through tax reform, try to free up dollars to continue to help people ... There are an awful lot of bridges out right now that we don’t have the dollars to fix.”

Foil: “We need to do everything possible to make our community colleges available for all citizens and have plenty of opportunities for job training. Look at a state like Tennessee, where you can go to community colleges for free. Here, we do have the TOPS Tech program, but it’s very underutilized."

Brooks Thompson: “The number one thing I would do is knock on 15,000 doors to get elected. I want to represent people that look, walk, talk like me: working-class people ... I’m not a career politician, and I’m not looking for the next big gig. I think we need real people in the legislature that have done real work in real businesses.”

Baudean: “A minor regulation is a major hassle for a lower socioeconomic-status citizen. It’s kind of a death by 1,000 cuts. You’ve constantly got little things that add up on you and make your life miserable ... Criminal justice reform, especially ending the drug war.”

Which candidate are you supporting for governor?

Carter: “Obviously, as a republican, I’m supporting a republican candidate. Personally, because Eddie Rispone is from Baton Rouge, I would probably - and I’m not saying this categorically this is what I’m going to do - I think we need someone local to solve local problems.”

Foil: “I’m not, at this point, publicly supporting anyone for governor. I’m totally concentrating on my race for senate.”

Brooks Thompson: “I’m proud to say I will be supporting Gov. John Bel Edwards ... Although we don’t agree on every single issue, I do appreciate his predictability. I appreciate that he’s been able to work across the aisle and with our nation’s president to get things like criminal justice reform accomplished."

Baudean: “I’m not actively supporting any of the gubernatorial candidates at this time. Unfortunately, the Libertarian party does not have a gubernatorial candidate on the ballot this year. That being said, I do think there is an argument to be made for the incumbent because I think it’s likely we’re going to end up with a republican legislature, and in the interest of checks and balances, one party controlling the whole government is a little risky.”

Bell: “I would be prepared to work with whoever is elected ... I would vote twice if I could, but I can’t."

Would you legalize recreational marijuana?

Brooks Thompson: “Legalizing marijuana is not another step that we need to take toward the crisis we have in our community.”

Baudean: “Marijuana should absolutely be legalized with no delays whatsoever ... That would be the number one, most important first step in our criminal justice reform efforts and in just making Louisiana a better place to live."

Bell: “In the Navy, we had a saying, ‘Would you want your helicopter mechanic to be on pot?’ ... I think it’s far enough we use it for medicinal purposes, but we need to look at how we enforce it so we’re not sweeping thousands of simple users into the justice system."

Carter: “If you talk to our District Attorney, I think that he is concerned also that it would lead from one step to the next step. So I’m not for it.”

Foil: “I’m not for legalizing recreational marijuana at this time ... For people who are just using marijuana, they shouldn’t be put in jail. That’s not how we need to treat these folks. People who have chemical dependence issues should be getting treatment, not put in jail.”

Should the fetal heartbeat abortion bill have carried an exception for rape and incest?

Bell: “I think there should not be an exception for rape and incest. The unborn child is not the rapist, so you should not punish the unborn child for the crime of the father. I’m 100 percent Louisiana Right to Life.”

Carter: “They had an amendment on the floor to do just that. I did not vote for it. The main reason I did not vote for it is because I have a very difficult time, if a squirrel runs in front of my car, killing a squirrel. You’re going to basically be killing an unborn. I love kids.”

Foil: “I did vote for that amendment, but it did not get on the bill. So I voted for the bill in its form as it was presented to us for its final passage.”

Brooks Thompson: “Those bills were about control, not about medicine or health care ... I believe a health care or medical decision belongs strictly in the doctor’s office with a woman and her partner.”

Baudean: “I think that the bill should absolutely have had those exceptions for rape and incest, but beyond that, I don’t think it should have ever been passed ... It is a medical decision between a woman and her doctor, and I don’t think the state has any business telling her what to do.”

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