By Robert Mann
They may be sparring at forums almost every week, but three of the four contenders for Louisiana governor must believe that mystery is an attractive quality in a candidate. Explore their websites and you’ll discover pretty pictures and flattering biographies, but few policy specifics.
Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, for example, shares his list of “25 Books to Best Understand Louisiana,” but little about health care and education. I couldn’t locate one detailed policy prescription on his site.
Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle’s campaign site peddles coffee mugs and a $21.95 apron that declares, “I’m With the Cajun.” It does not, however, have specific policy proposals, other than links to news stories about his vague plans. Angelle’s site does feature a new spot that announces his support for “equal pay” for women. Asked for details, however, Angelle’s campaign manager told me those wouldn’t come until his boss is governor.
Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, provides more detail than Angelle or Dardenne on his website, but only about education, health care and the military. Regarding education, you’ll learn that Edwards will end “double digit annual tuition increases while prioritizing more state support for higher education to make the state a true partner with parents and students to keep cost of higher education low while consistently moving toward the southern average in total funding.”
Where will Edwards find the money for this? He gives no details on his website. Perhaps, instead of a page on the military, something about the state’s enormous budget woes would be more useful.
So far, U.S. Sen. David Vitter is the only candidate to publish a lengthy plan for how he would govern. It’s 36 pages long and gives voters useful insights into the policies that would guide a Vitter administration. For example, page seven – “Stabilizing the Budget Through Spending & Tax Reform” – is far more detailed on this issue than anything presented by the other candidates.
Dardenne and Angelle may have policy plans – and they’ve discussed them at the various forums – but they haven’t published them, at least, on their websites. Aren’t those the logical places for interested voters to search for candidates’ policy prescriptions?
Edwards offers more details than Angelle and Dardenne but still falls short of what we should expect from a major gubernatorial candidate. Even Vitter’s so-called “blueprint,” while more satisfying than anything published by his opponents, is not a true, detailed policy blueprint.
Political scientists might counter that this policy ambiguity doesn’t matter much. People choose candidates using other factors, including party affiliation, personality, slogans and name recognition. Perhaps that’s true. Voters rarely vote on policies alone.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the news media and the public shouldn’t pin down the candidates now – only four short months from the Oct. 24 election – and force them to cough up more details about how they would govern. (Which is exactly what moderator Clancy DuBos did skillfully at a recent forum in Westwego.)
All the candidates (except for Edwards, who serves in the House) escaped the 2015 legislative session without disclosing how they would have voted on most major bills that lawmakers debated.
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