Qualifying approaches for packed fall ballot

Candidates from all around Louisiana will begin qualifying for a smorgasbord of different elections that touch upon nearly every level of government, from local all the way up to federal.

According to Meg Casper, the communications director for the secretary of state’s office, there could be as many as 475 Louisiana races on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Qualifying begins next Wednesday, July 20, and ends on Friday, July 22. This process will determine exactly how many of those races end up on the ballot. During last year’s round of qualifying, more officials were elected without opposition than in any other time in recent history, Secretary of State Tom Schedler said.

The top of the November ballot belongs to the developing presidential contest. The Republican Party meets in Cleveland on Monday, July 18, for four days of convention activity to select its official nominee. The Democratic Party gathers the week after in Philadelphia, beginning July 25, to do the same.

The premier race for Louisiana politics, however, is the seat being vacated by senior U.S. Sen. David Vitter. It’s expected to draw a large field of contenders and, in turn, create two vacancies in congressional districts.

Running in the open U.S. Senate race will be Congressman Charles Boustany of Lafayette from the 3rd Congressional District and Congressman John Fleming of Minden from the 4th Congressional District. Candidates have already started lining up for those elections and both should create competitive congressional races.

Congressman Cedric Richmond in the 2nd Congressional District may also have an opponent in Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, who has said he intends to run.

There will be two elections for the Louisiana Supreme Court, three court of appeal races and three district judge contests.

There will also be only one election for the state Legislature, for a House seat based in Jefferson Parish, and two posts on the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, is up for grabs.

Additionally, there are a slew of local races for mayoral positions, city councils, parish councils and other elected seats.

Runoffs, as needed, are scheduled for Dec. 10. Education officials face tuition issuesAs voters prepare to decide on the Nov. 8 ballot whether university system in Louisiana should be allowed to set their own tuition, officials on the community and technical college level have already made a decision not to increase rates.

The constitutional amendment on the fall ballot applies only to four-year colleges and universities. Lawmakers approved the proposed amendment during their regular session earlier this year.

Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings, who authored the proposed amendment said Louisiana and Florida are the only states that do not provide university systems with autonomy on this issue.

Proponents contend years of budget cuts have brought education officials to this point and future autonomy could help them better address budget shortfalls.

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, recently announced it will not impose a tuition increase for the 2016-17 school year. This marks the first time in five years that LCTCS students will not face a tuition increase.

The LCTCS board will not be affected by the proposed constitutional amendment, but its action may be an early sign of what happens when the governor and Legislature pass a budget that funds higher education close to the same level as the previous year.

“After years of increasing tuition, the board felt this was the right thing to do for our students,” LCTCS Board Chairman Woody Oge. “Despite rising costs, we have an obligation to uphold our mission of open access and workforce development.”

The LCTCS board, however, did approve a set of new fees that students will have to pay. There are two “policy-driven fees” based on national “best practices,” an excess credit hour fee and a compressed program fee.

The latter relates to programs that are required to meet the immediate workforce needs of business and industry in high demand.

Shooting sparks questions in Baton RougeThe police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge has resulted in activists and community leaders asking why Mayor-President Kip Holden hasn’t been as visible as other elected officials in the region and why he didn’t immediately contact the families involved.

Holden later told reporters he was in Washington, D.C., working to secure federal transportation funding for East Baton Rouge parish.

Holden has said he intends to qualify for the 2nd Congressional District race this fall to oppose Congressman Cedric Richmond of New Orleans.

Richmond was on the scene early after the shooting and initially called for a federal investigation of the shooting that involved the Baton Rouge Police Department.

In recent days some protestors, led by community activist Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, have begun calling for Holden’s resignation.

They Said It“I’m just asking you to see if you know the answers.”—Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, posing questions during a legislative committee meeting“I haven’t officially announced it yet. But I am running again in four years.”—Gov. John Bel Edwards, to reporters

 

About Jeremy Alford 211 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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