Early voting begins on District 65 race

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Barry Ivey, left, and Scott Wilson visit Nov. 27 prior speaking to the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Barry Ivey, left, and Scott Wilson visit Nov. 27 prior speaking to the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Early voting begins Saturday to choose between two Central businessmen who are vying for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Scott Wilson, who also is a East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council member, faces Barry Ivey, a first-time candidate for public office, to replace Clif Richardson, R-Central, for the remaining 22 months in the House District 65 seat.

Richardson resigned for health reasons.

Early voting continues through Feb. 23. The election is scheduled for March 2.

Both Republicans oppose a loop around Baton Rouge, gay marriage, funding for Planned Parenthood and legislative pay raises. They differ, slightly, on their opposition to abortion with Wilson willing to make exceptions for rape and incest, while Ivey does not.

Traffic congestion is a key issue for people living in the eastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, both candidates said.

“I commute down Greenwell Springs (Road). I know what it’s like to wait in traffic,” Wilson said.

“You have a lot of traffic going through the heart of Central,” Ivey agreed. “We need alternative routes.”

Both said they would work to complete the Hooper Road extension into Livingston Parish.

Ivey points out that the city-parish budget has increased 40 percent in the past eight years. The state budget has increased from $10 billion to $25 billion in 15 years, he said.

In both cases, lawmakers who described themselves as “conservative” made those votes to increase the size of government. Ivey said he hopes to rally conservatives to review state government operations and reduce the size of state government.

“When I am a legislator, I will make sure there is a voice at the microphone letting the citizens of this state know what is going on,” Ivey wrote in his questionnaire for the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party.

Wilson points to his experience running a business and as a councilman. He said he helped remove a key “slush” fund from the mayor’s control and returned that money to the city-parish budget. He criticized the DBE contract process in local government, arguing that the awarding of contracts should not be limited by race or gender.

Wilson also said he worked closely with state and local officials to complete Phase I of the Central Thruway project and helped find the monies needed to kick-start the BRAVE anti-crime initiative.

“I have been in the trenches on a daily basis — providing constituent services, casting votes and making tough decisions in the best interest of our communities,” Wilson wrote in his questionnaire for the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party.

Wilson said he generally supports overhauling the state’s tax system but wants to see specific details, which have not been released, yet. “It’s a good idea, but you have to look at what they’re going to do,” Wilson said.

Ivey also supports the concept of eliminating personal income tax and corporate income and franchise taxes but is noncommittal on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan because the governor has not released details.

Ivey said he favors the voucher program.

“Education is the key to future success,” Ivey said. “We need to improve the performance.”

Ivey said he would like to be on the education committee.

“I support the voucher system. It gives parents the opportunity to control the destiny of their own children,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he would be a good fit for the House committees that deal with labor, transportation and municipal issues.

Louisiana House District 65 represents about 42,000 people living in the northeastern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish, roughly south of Denham Road to about South Harrell’s Ferry Road and east of Flannery Road to the Amite River. The district’s population is 71 percent white, and 39 percent of the voters are registered Republican.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry found both candidates acceptable.