Voter turnout expected to be light in House 65 contest Saturday

District 65 Map
District 65 Map

Secretary of State Tom Schedler expects a low voter turnout Saturday to elect the Louisiana House representative for the city of Central along with many of the East Baton Rouge Parish neighborhoods along the Amite River to South Harrell’s Ferry Road.

Voting in the district’s 13 precincts begins at 7 a.m. – the first election under a new law that changed opening time. The polls close at 8 p.m.

Two Republican businessmen, both of whom call themselves conservative, are vying to replace Clif Richardson, R-Central. Richardson resigned for health reasons.

Scott Wilson, who also is a East Baton Rouge Parish Metro councilman, faces Barry Ivey, a first-time candidate for public office.

“I’d peg the turnout at 16 to 18 percent total and I’m being pretty liberal with my estimate,” Schedler said. House District 65 has 27,631 registered voters, according to election records.

“With those numbers, 100 votes here or there will decide who wins,” said Dave Freneaux, founder of Central Speaks, a weekly community newspaper. “It’ll all depend on who gets their vote out.”

As a Metro councilman, Wilson said he has practical experience getting things done in government. He organized money for roads projects in the Central area and worked to cut the city-parish budget.

Ivey said he relies on his religious faith. As a child, Ivey said, he accompanied missionary Valarie Hodges, currently a Republican state representative in Denham Springs, on a church trip.

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

Both candidates oppose a loop around Baton Rouge, gay marriage, funding for Planned Parenthood and legislative pay raises. They differ, slightly, on abortion. Ivey opposes abortion without exception. Wilson said he is willing to make exceptions for rape and incest.

Both candidates identified traffic congestion as a key issue for people living in the eastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish. Both support extensions and expansions on area roads to give commuters alternative ways to get downtown.

Louisiana House District 65 represents about 42,000 people — 71 percent of whom are white — 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.

A second election for an empty legislative seat is being held Saturday in Jefferson Parish.

Four Republicans are running: Allison Bent Bowler, finance director of Benjamin Franklin High School; Jack Rizzuto, who ran in 2007 for the seat; lawyer Paul Hankins Villalobos, all from Metairie; and Julie Stokes, an accountant from Kenner.

State Rep. Anthony “Tony” Ligi, R-Metairie, resigned to take a job heading the Jefferson Business Council.

House District 79 represents about 45,000 people living along Lake Pontchartrain in a portion of Jefferson Parish, roughly north of West Esplanade Avenue, east of about Academy Drive to about Lake Borgne Avenue.

The district’s population is 77 percent white, and 46 percent of the voters are registered Republican.