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This election, look at records, not just candidate rhetoric

During the campaign season for state and local offices, you are going to hear a lot of rhetoric both verbal and written coming from various candidates. There’s no truth-in-advertising stricture regarding these ads, so it’s interesting to discover what information some candidates aren’t going to volunteer.

One action that trips up some incumbents is signing onto the Blueprint Louisiana agenda. This reform organization has almost all good ideas that would promote economic development and run government more efficiently. Yet several area incumbents who indicated they supported the agenda in fact even as recently as this past legislative session acted in ways directly contradicting what they now say they support.

For example, part of the agenda is to move the state away from a charity hospital system as the cornerstone of indigent care and pursue more sensible strategies to get matching federal funds. Yet signers Senate incumbents Democrat Robert Adley, Republican Sherri Smith Cheek, and House incumbent Republican Billy Montgomery cast votes that would do exactly the opposite.

In the 2007 regular session Adley and Montgomery voted in favor of SCR 76 which authorized the building of a wastefully-large new charity hospital in New Orleans that serves as an attempt to keep the lower-performing, less-efficient present system (Cheek was absent for that vote). And in 2005 they and Cheek voted for HB 887 to increase taxes on hospitals that would have ended up (despite protestations to the contrary by supporters) being passed on to consumers that was an attempt to chase federal dollars on the backs of consumers. (This increase quietly was repealed before it ever took effect.)

There’s also a lot of omission going on in advertising. For example, Cheek is quick to argue she voted in ways to repeal the “Stelly” tax swap but neglects to mention how she wanted to foist the “sick” tax on Louisiana health consumers.

Or there’s quite a bit of side-stepping issues. An Adley commercial has proponents of ethics reform touting him as fair and honest. Of course, Adley doesn’t tell the public that he and Sen. Pres. Don Hines were the two most responsible politicians for killing ethics reform last session. Despite overwhelming majorities in both chambers approving reform that included local officials, Adley and Hines refused in conference committee to keep this broader scope of the bill which put the bill in a posture to get it defeated.

And there’s a lot of credit-taking going on that really isn’t deserved, such as Montgomery’s ads endlessly harping on the “stuff” he claims to have brought to his House district while avoiding almost anything having to do with his voting record (chock full of acts this very conservative district would disdain.) Besides the obvious fact that anybody running against him now could have done (and in one case, former Rep. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw, did do) the same – or perhaps even better – such emphasis reflects a political philosophy underlying why Louisiana, and particularly north Louisiana, is economically underdeveloped compared to the rest of the country: state government is deemed to be there to take wealth from those it thinks ought not to have it for purposes that either it should not be involved in or should be left to local governments, and then it distributes wealth primarily in a way to magnify the political fortunes of elected officials and the special interests that support them.

Finally, using a newcomer as an example, we see instances of creative license in defining terms. Republican Richey Jackson, running for the state House, asserts in campaign paraphernalia that he is a “life-long resident of Bossier Parish.” Apparently, Jackson feels he can define himself as such even though he bought a home in Bienville Parish in 1998, claimed it as his homestead in 2003 and 2004, voted 12 times in Bienville between 2000 and 2004, and only in 2006 began voting in Bossier again.

Lesson: even though there’s often a paucity of information about these kinds of local contests and so it will take more searching to get information, it can be done. All information in this column came from public records and news and opinion accounts over the Internet. If prospective voters inform themselves about candidates in all contests as they never have before, they’ll make better decisions than ever before in these upcoming Louisiana state and local elections.

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On a somewhat regular basis I am making some media appearance somewhere and normally I wouldn't mention it. But because of the new media nature of this one, because you the reader have taken the trouble to go to this blog thereby demonstrating at elast some interest in new media, for this one I'll give warning.

Saturday night I will be hooked up to the live feed from Shreveport's KTBS and conduct an online chat from their live broadcast stream over the Internet. It should start around when polls close and can be accessed through their site above (they don't yet have the URL set up). So if you aren't privileged enough to be one of my students or to attend and address I'm giving and want to have some amusement while the results roll in, click and go.

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