Quick recap on Gray TV gubernatorial debate

Three of the top polling candidates were invited but only two accepted.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 10:52 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 6:17 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Gray TV hosted its gubernatorial debate on Tues., Sep. 26 at the University of New Orleans.

Three of the top polling candidates were invited but only two accepted. The candidates tried to make their case to voters about why they should lead the state ahead of the primary in about two weeks.

In order to get on the debate stage candidates were required to tally 5 percent or higher in a Gray-commissioned poll.

So it was Democrat Shawn Wilson versus Republican Stephen Waguespack going head-to-head without having to compete with the current Republican front-runner Jeff Landry.

The two candidates were first asked how they would turn around the economy and jobs.

“The key is workforce development, training kids for the jobs of tomorrow, it’s also creating a business climate where people want to grow and invest here in Louisiana, that means we have to reduce our tax program, we have to reduce our regulatory program, we have to clean up our legal environment so people feel safe in investing their hard-earned investment here in Louisiana,” said Waguespack.

“We have an opportunity before us to invest in the types of jobs that are going to be here for the next generation. Whether it’s renewable or in the world of solar or hydrogen, all of these are opportunities for us to grow and build an economy that we’ll all be proud of and one that will cause people to come to Louisiana. We’ll have an innovation economy where people are investing in themselves,” said Wilson.

Gray TV hosted its gubernatorial debate on Tues., Sep. 26 at the University of New Orleans.

When questioned about addressing crime in the state, one candidate began attacking Attorney General Jeff Landry.

“You have to acknowledge the fact that the chief law enforcement officer in the state, who’s responsible for leading that effort in the state of Louisiana is absent, he’s been absent from the job and he’s absent here tonight. The first law of leadership is actually showing up,” said Wilson.

Wagusespack also went after Wilson’s track record as the former head of DOTD, claiming the department has a bloated budget which is one of the reasons why vital road projects have stalled.

“Shawn’s a good guy, but look the bureaucracy at DOTD has not been reined in. The Department of Transportation must be reduced and the dollars must be pushed out to the districts so you can make smart decisions at the local level. Second, the legislature has some blood on their hands as well. Instead of prioritizing things like splash pads and these neighborhood civic associations and things, they should be investing in high-profile transportation projects,” said Waguespack.

“The reality is we have the lowest number of department employees in the history of the Department of Transportation, and we have continuously operated at a budget that’s 50% or less than what it was designed to do. I deny the fact or reject the fact that the employees of our department aren’t effective or weren’t effective,” said Wilson.

Polls show Louisiana voters are most concerned about economy, crime, and healthcare.

Candidates were also asked their stance on school choice.

“Everyone will tell you that we are not fully funding education to the level that we should. Whether it’s early childhood education, K-12, or our universities. And we create opportunities to dwindle those resources and isolate them in different communities without the same level of accountability, without the same commitment to presenting the outcomes that children need and deserve, we’re doing more damage to children that may not have those choices,” said Wilson.

“Right now, we tell those parents if you’re poor, what building to go to, what classroom to go to, and that’s going to be the solution for you. I don’t think that’s right in the modern economy. I think we should allow all parents some choice there,” said Waguespack.

Both candidates said they would call for a special session to address the insurance crisis across our state.

“The truth is we will never be able to reduce your rates unless we rein in the excessive lawsuits. And I promise I will do everything in my power to do that for you if I’m elected as your next governor,” said Waguespack.

It was Democrat Shawn Wilson versus Republican Stephen Waguespack going head-to-head.

“For us to bail out big insurance companies I think is the wrong answer when citizens have made these investments that we have. Clearly, we have to have a special session to address a number of issues,” said Wilson.

Candidates were also asked about their stance on the state’s abortion law.

“I do not think it is the governor’s place or the legislature’s place to make decisions for a woman when we have doctors trained to do this,” said Wilson.

“I am a pro-life candidate and I support the current law and the current provisions in law today,” said Waguespack.

They were also asked if they would support legalizing recreational marijuana.

“I do not think legalization of recreational marijuana is the right decision for this state,” said Waguespack.

“I think we should decriminalize it, I don’t think it’s ready, or that Louisiana is ready for the legalization of that,” said Wilson.

But how do these candidates plan to keep folks from leaving our state to places like Texas?

“We have to start with making investments to help them create their own businesses to build a workforce. But it also starts with these basic elements that every family wants, they want to be safe in their communities, they want to have an education system where they can raise their children and not have to send them to the private school necessarily or live in a gated community because of the increased cost of living,” said Wilson.

Gray TV hosted its gubernatorial debate on Tues., Sep. 26 at the University of New Orleans.

“Young people leave for a job, but when they get to Texas or other states they fall in love with the quality of life. Post-COVID-era, every employee realizes they can move all over the country and chase jobs and chase communities and work virtually. They are going to be on the move if you can’t provide a good job, a safe community, a good education system, and an enjoyable quality of life,” said Waguespack.

The closing remarks are where things got a bit feisty.

“Shawn is a good friend of mine, he’s a very nice person, he’s a friend of mine, I’d be honored to have him as my neighbor. But if you are Democrat and vote for Shawn to go to the run-off, you’re basically voting for Jeff Landry, because I don’t think he can beat Jeff,” said Waguespack.

“This race is about the future of Louisiana but let’s face it, this race is also about race. The idea that we will not elect an African American governor is unacceptable to me, the people of Louisiana are far better than that,” said Wilson.

The candidates also addressed topics on juvenile offenders and where to house them, the future of oil and gas, re-districting, the future of the state’s half-cent sales tax, and more.

Watch the full debate below:

The leading candidates for Louisiana governor took the stage for a debate hosted by Gray Television.

Early voting will run from September 30 until October 7.

Election day is October 14.

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