HD64: Two Republicans seek election

Two Republicans with similar pro-business, anti-tax views are vying for the newly configured state House District 64 seat currently held by state Rep. Bodi White, R-Central.

Attorney-businessman Barry Elkins and minister Valarie Hodges face off on Oct. 22.

White opted to run for a newly created state Senate seat instead of seeking re-election to the House.

In his first bid for elected office, Elkins said his only political involvement in the past has been as a contributor to other candidate’s campaigns.

“I’m at the time of my life that I can devote to a political office,” Elkins said. “I’ve looked at what’s gone on in the past. Based on my experience and training, I can do as equally a good or better job.”

Elkins, who owns Magnolia Title Company, is a former public classroom teacher and comes from a family of educators. He said Hodges lacks the business experience and education to prepare her for legislative service.

Hodges has been active in state Republican Party politics, elected to the party’s governing body and helped reactivate a Republican women’s group in Livingston Parish.

Hodges and her husband are ministers of Destiny International Church and lead Straightway Ministries, an international missions organization. They served as missionaries for 18 years based in Mexico.

“I feel like I have a lot to bring to the table as a woman and a community activist. I want to have more of a voice in the Legislature on the values we hold dear,” Hodges said.

Hodges said she is more qualified than Elkins because of her experience and leadership in the community since returning 10 years ago and “the difference we have made on the mission field.”

Both candidates said job creation, not more taxes, is the way to improve the state government’s ailing finances.

“I don’t think we can stand more tax increases on anything,” Hodges said.

Hodges pointed to tax breaks that have enticed the movie industry to Louisiana. “We can continue to find incentives to bring business to Louisiana,” she said.

“We should promote the rich culture of Louisiana and our climate to businesses,” Hodges said.

To grow the economy, Elkins said the state must continue tax incentives already being offered. And, he said, “we don’t need to over-regulate businesses as they come in.”

“By attracting business we are going to build our tax base for certain,” Elkins said. And no new taxes will be needed, he said.

The two candidates said education is the way to improve Louisiana’s poverty ranking — the second highest in the nation.

Education leads to jobs, said Elkins.

“We have to improve our public schools,” said Elkins.

Hodges said the key to addressing poverty is more jobs for our residents.

“I think that’s tied to education. The more higher education people have the more business you bring in,” said Hodges. “We need more trade schools for people who cannot attend college.”

Each said they are not familiar enough with the state budget to know what more can or should be cut.

Elkins said the greatest single need of the fast-growing House District 64 is infrastructure improvements. Work has been done in recent years, “but we cannot let the momentum slow up,” he said.

He noted the need for continued work on Hooper Road and Greenwell Springs Road which is “a narrow two-lane country road” in some sections.

Hodges put jobs at the top of her list of district needs. She said she wants more job opportunities in the district.

BARRY ELKINS

Republican, Greenwell Springs.

65, attorney and title company owner.

EDUCATION: B.S., LSU; JD, Southern University Law Center.

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: No prior elected office.

VALARIE HODGES

Republican, Watson.

56, non-denominational minister, Destiny International Church.

EDUCATION: Studied political science at LSU.

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Elected member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee and on its eight-member executive board.

WHERE TO VOTE

Ward/Precinct and location

East Baton Rouge Parish

2-3 Brownsfield Volunteer Fire Station

2-6 Northeast Elementary

2-7 Gas Utility District 1

2-8 Gas Utility District 1

2-10 Foster Road Baptist Church

2-14 Zachary City Hall

2-15 White Hills Elementary

3-2 Cornerstone Fellowship

3-37 Cornerstone Fellowship

Livingston Parish

1 N. Live Oak Elementary

1A N. Live Oak Elementary

1B Live Oak High Gym

1C Live Oak High Gym

1D N. Live Oak Elementary

2 S. Live Oak Elementary

2A S. Live Oak Elementary

3 Friendship Fire Station

3A Levi Milton Elementary

3B Friendship Fire Station

4 Live Oak Middle

4A Live Oak Middle

4B Live Oak Middle

Online Editor's Note:

This story was updated on Oct. 13, 2011, to correct the residence of Barry Elkins to Greenwell Springs.