Candidates debate

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tuesday’s night’s State Senate District 12 debate pitting Bogalusa Democrat Mickey Murphy and Franklinton Republican Beth Mizell was rather to the point and offered a few philosophical differences as expected.

Each candidate was given three minutes for opening statements and then asked five questions, for which they were allowed two minutes to answer each question. At the end of the question-and-answer period, each candidate was allowed to ask one question of the other. Candidates were given three minutes for closing statements.

The runoff is scheduled for Nov. 21.

Mizell’s opening statement: “I thank you for your interest in showing up tonight. I would like to recognize all veterans here tonight, including Mr. Murphy, and members of my family. I grew up in Bogalusa and married my high school sweetheart. I got swept up in politics when I went to a Parish Council meeting and asked a question.

“I ran four years ago because I felt I could make a difference. We’re at a fork in the road where this district can shine.”

Murphy’s opening statement: “It took me 71 years to develop a taste for politics, and I like it. My entire life has been about service to people. The first paragraph in my old civics class says government exists to provide service to the people.

“That’s not happening in Baton Rouge. I don’t like what I see happening in Baton Rouge.  We’ve been kicking the can down the road for too long. It’s time to change that.”

Question 1 — Do you believe the construction of a 3,200-acre water reservoir in Washington Parish would be a good thing for our region, and why or why not?

Murphy — “That project has long been debated. I’m opposed to it. We need to fund education and highways.”

Mizell — “I can’t imagine property my family built on under water. I don’t have to think too hard about it. It’s a no.”

Question 2 — How would you work with a governor from your opposite party on issues of importance to citizens?

Mizell — “If the state has no money, there is no money whether there is an ‘R’ before your name or a ‘D.’ My job is to give everything I can for the betterment of this district. I can work with them.”

Murphy — “I could work with the new administration just like I did with every administration for the last 40 years. I’ve worked with people on both sides of the aisles. I will take those same skills to Baton Rouge. I’ve been appointed by Democratic governors. I’ve been appointed by Republican governors.

“I was born a Catholic and a Democrat, and I’m not going to disappoint my 91-year-old mother. I have proven history working with both sides of the aisle.”

Question 3 — What will you do to bring new businesses and jobs to Washington Parish?

Murphy — I’m vice chairman of the Economic Development Foundation. I have worked with General Dynamics, Martin Marietta and Chrysler Corporation. I serve on the Regional Workforce Investment Board. I know we have to provide incentives. The way you attract economic development is you have to have a quality education system and have quality transportation, and you must have incentives.”

Mizell — “We need to offer a situation that residents feel that with improved roads, business will come. If you make it appealing enough, businesses will come here. They will come because schools will be attractive and the roads will be maintained.”

Question 4 — Would you be in favor of expanding Medicaid coverage to the roughly 200,000 uninsured Louisianans who fall below 138 percent of the federal poverty level? Why or why not?

Mizell — “I wouldn’t want to promise an expansion unless we have a way to pay for it in future years. I don’t want to see anybody without health care. That’s a discussion I’m willing to have.”

Murphy — “I stand with (Democratic governor candidate) John Bel Edwards for expanding Medicaid. We have thousands of citizens in this state that have unmet healthcare needs that could be provided in our rural hospitals close to home.

“This is our money; we sent it to Washington, D.C. and the federal government takes what they want and makes available to us what is left. It’s allowing this money to go to other states while our folks here are suffering from a lack of care.”

Question 5 — Are you for or against Common Core?

Murphy — “It’s real simple, no more Common Core. Parents and grandparents I’ve talked to don’t support Common Core. Excessive standardized testing doesn’t make sense. We need to put some common sense back in the process.”

Mizell — “I’ve been against Common Core since it was introduced. It’s offensive to me in its content as a mother and grandmother. I think the government has overstepped its bounds.”

Murphy asked Mizell if she was proud of voting for David Vitter, the Republican candidate for governor who has been embroiled in a past prostitution scandal.

“We’re all sinners,” Mizell said. “David Vitter has voted correctly for the state of Louisiana. John Bel Edwards’ sins haven’t been brought up on television.”

Mizell asked Murphy if he was proud of voting for the Democratic senator in the 2014 election, referring to Mary Landrieu. However, Murphy began talking about Edwards’ recent election. Murphy didn’t respond when Mizell twice said she was speaking of Landrieu.

“I voted for the Democrat, John Bel Edwards,” Murphy said. “He lives by the Honor Code. I’m not ashamed of my vote.”

Closing statements:

Murphy — “I want to begin my closing statement by asking you to look at qualifications. There is a distinct difference in the candidates. We have philosophical differences. Big corporations and special interests in this state and out of state that created this budget mess are on one side. On the other side is Mickey Murphy. He knows how to work both sides. He’s about standing up for the average person.”

Mizell — “Pfizer and Budweiser gave (to the Democratic Party). I feel like we’re at a door and I’m asking you to open that door. I think of economic development. If we can put people together, we can come up with solutions. I want to leave my kids a good place. We can take the best of each other and succeed.”