Whether we like it or not, election season is here. Yard signs and billboards are popping up all over the landscape, and a few early television commercials are airing, with smiling-faced candidates saying little about issues but trying to convince us that they deserve our trust, support—and money.
The rhetoric and campaign activity will begin to escalate significantly between now and the September 6 deadline to file qualification papers. Labor Day will arrive and bring with it a barrage of media ads, and political mailings—some well done and informative, some scurrilous—will continue to flood mailboxes as the October 20 primary election date approaches. The post-primary lull—much like the eye of a hurricane passing overhead—will last a day or two as the candidates in runoffs seek to win over support of the losers and retool their strategies. Then the final push will be on for the November 17 general election.
Most voters are not going to get any opportunities to directly question the candidates on issues important to them. The most informed voters will be the ones who list the issues they think are most critical for the next Legislature and governor to deal with and then pay attention to anything and everything the candidates say about those issues.
Here are a few suggestions for a candidate “questionnaire” for voters to keep track of how candidates face up to important issues.
The state budget: Do the candidates think that the future revenue base in Louisiana will be viable enough to support the record $30 billion state budget enacted in the recently completed legislative session? If so, what do they base that opinion on? If not, what will they do to bring the massive spending in line with future revenues?
Workforce development and the economy: Good-paying jobs are going unfilled in Louisiana, because there are not enough trained and qualified members of our workforce ready and willing to fill them. Hundreds of millions of dollars are currently being spent on workforce development, with very disappointing results. What will the candidates do to improve workforce training and develop a more seamless public/private system in Louisiana?
Health care: Louisiana continues to operate the only indigent and uninsured health care system in America that has as its central focus a state-run charity hospital system. Due to long waiting periods for treatment and often low quality of care, Medicaid and uninsured patients are leaving that system in droves and showing up in private medical facilities for treatment. The state pays for only a fraction of that compensated care, which inflates medical costs for insured patients. The hospital-focused charity hospital system is weak on primary care for the indigent which often leads to health problems for the poor and uninsured. What will the candidates do—if anything—to fix this problem?
These are just a few of the major issues facing the new state leadership that will be sworn into office next January. Voters can add many more issues to the list of what they want to hear candidates discuss and commit to during the election. If voters focus on issues and not political puffery, they will go to the polls this fall equipped to make a difference in Louisiana’s future. They will also have a scorecard they can use to hold the officeholders accountable to them during the four-year term beginning next year. The alternative is to let the candidates get by with baby kissing and platitudes—and more of the same in Louisiana.