|Run up to runoff|
Early voting continues through Saturday, November 12, with the election following Saturday, November 19.
While there are few seats on the local ballot, the election of District 10 state representative, vacated by term-limited Jean Doerge, is at the top of the list.
In an effort to make a trip to the polls more enlightening, The Minden Press-Herald asked both candidates, Republican Jerri Ray de Pingre' and Democrat Gene Reynolds the same five questions about issues important to voters in District 10.
Jeri Ray de Pingre'
What makes you the more qualified candidate to represent District 10?
It's important that we have a representative who has experience in a number of areas. Not just one dimensional. I have experience in education, having been a classroom teacher for 15 years. Having been a businessperson for 30 years brings a little something extra and special to the table because we have dealt with the economy. We have dealt with difficult situations, we've dealt with taxes, we've dealt with regulations and we know how hard it is to be in small business. I don't have to talk to businesses about what they need and what their issues are. I AM a businessperson. When I wasn't teaching school, I was still working in the company.
Having had a child with a critical illness, I've had more experience than I'd like dealing with the state health care system, and I think that's extremely important. And being a woman – women are better at doing different things at the same time. I am a fighter and a hard worker and don't ever tell me "no." The fact that so many people told me I was getting into the race late, and here I am in the runoff. I will take that same tenacity to Baton Rouge and work equally – and more so – hard for the people of District 10.
What are the top 3 issues in the Legislature and which is the primary issue facing District 10?
Number one is spending. We are over spending. We don't have a revenue problem in Louisiana. We have a spending problem. We've got to get our spending under control, and that will take care of the other problems. Because of that, we are more attractive to business and industry, and more attractive to getting new companies to come into the state.
That addresses the second issue which is jobs. Education is also a top priority. My take on the state's role, as opposed to individual parishes' education systems, is "send us the money and leave us alone." We can't cookie-cut curriculums because what works in Jefferson Parish is not going to work in Webster Parish. You're looking at two completely different cultures; two completely different kinds of people, and you have to free up the individual schools systems and allow them to do what works best in their individual areas.
Another thing that our area desperately needs is a dual curriculum in high schools. We have Northwest Technical College right here in Minden, and we're about to build a brand new campus. That school is world-known. We literally have students that come to that school from all over the world, yet our own students in Webster Parish schools don't have a curriculum that says "okay, maybe by the time you're a sophomore in high school, you don't think you're going to be college-bound." Not everybody is a four-year student. We need to allow our students to be able to choose a high school curriculum that's going to help them look toward their future. It's going to improve our numbers because we're not mass-testing ACT scores for all these kids, some of whom never intend to go to college. If you free up those students who are not college-bound and no longer have to take the ACT, that's going to raise our numbers on the national average. It is already legal – it's in the Louisiana Educational System that you can have dual system. All we can do as state legislators is make it easier and encourage our local systems – in particular Webster Parish – to pursue that dual curriculum.
Education is going to be at the very top. It's interesting that on a state level it's going to be there while we're dealing with such difficult circumstances as an individual parish. Not all parishes are dealing with it like we are and have made the drastic changes we've made. It's going to go hand-in-hand, but that's going to be the governor's number one thing when the session starts in March.
Which committee assignments would you like and why?
At this point, it's nice for me to say what I think I would get. I know that's not the way it works. I would hope I would be asked to serve on committees where I have some experience. How many freshman legislators actually get to be on the Appropriations Committee? I know that's not likely.
Education is going to be such a hot button issue, I think people will be running for the hills to keep from being on those (committees) because they're going to have to make some unpopular decisions. They are going to have to do some things that are not going to make some of the state population very happy. I've never backed down from a fight. That's not in my nature. So, if the Powers-that-Be feel like that's some place I would serve well, then absolutely, I would be happy to do it.
I would like to get some input from my constituents. Once elected, I wouldn't be opposed to some kind of survey that said, "where would you like to see 'her' serve?" Because it's not about me. It's about serving the people of District 10. Where would you like to see your legislator serve? What committees would best serve the people of our district?
How would you restore public trust in government?
It starts with the individual. I believe the voters that voted for me in the primary (election) as well as the ones that will elect me in the general election know my character. They know the kind of person I am. They know we're working really hard to meet as many of them in different parts of the area because, of course, Minden is my home, so I'm trying to meet as many people in the other areas as I can.
All I can do on an individual basis is assure people I will stand by my convictions, I will do what the voters want me to do. I understand you have to bend a little bit to play the game, but without compromising my morals or my standards, I understand that needs to be done. I don't have a magic wand that I can fix everybody in Baton Rouge. All I can do is assure the people who elect me that I'm not going to change when I get down there.
I'm 52 years old. I've been through a lot in my life. I still stand by my faith. I still stand with my family. I love this area, and I'm going to stand for this area. That's all I can do individually. Possibly, as time goes by, I'll have some influence with other legislators in Baton Rouge. I like to think I am going to be able to do that.
In classroom teaching, you have a platform every day. In 15 years of selling office equipment, you have a bit of a platform in that. People begin to know that I am the kind of person who does what I say I'm going to do. If I say that desk is going to be delivered on Friday, that desk is going to be delivered on Friday. If I tell the students, "if you cross this line, this is what's going to happen to you," they better know if they cross that line, something's going to happen to them. Being a person of integrity and a person of your word with a strong faith in God who directs your path, that's the best I can do and hopefully have influence over others.
What would be your primary goal to accomplish by the end of your first term?
It goes back to the three priorities. We believe education is going to be one of them. We believe jobs is always an issue, and, of course, spending. My primary goal would be to see some progress in any or all of those three areas that I feel are of deepest concern to the state. I know it's a little at a time.
By the end of my first four years, there's no telling what we can accomplish by then. We just have to start somewhere. We start cutting spending – that's do-able. Look at some of the plans that are out there, especially the plans our state secretary John Kennedy has put forward. He's got great ideas. He just needs more people down there helping him get them implemented.
We can cut spending in the state. There's a lot of waste, and there are ways to get that done. That goes hand-in-hand with other things. You cut spending in one place, and you have more to spend in education, if we deem necessary to spend more on education. I'm not necessarily one of those who believes that if you throw money at it, it's going to fix it. That's not always the case.
By the end of this, making progress in our state budgetary issues, make progress in taking some really serious difficult and unpopular steps to get our education system back on track and then the jobs will come. It's a cycle. They all go hand-in-hand. I believe if we have success with one, then the others will follow.