Gov. Edwards visits parish

Published 4:27 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Gov. John Bel Edwards served as the keynote speaker at the Washington Parish Democratic Party’s annual banquet on Friday night, at Bogalusa Grill.

Edwards, who is from Amite City in neighboring Tangipahoa Parish, is running for re-election this October. He is one of the few Democratic governors in the traditionally conservative Southern United States.

Edwards bested then-U.S. Sen. David Vitter, his Republican opponent, in the 2015 election to earn his first term. Edwards defeated Vitter, 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent.

His announced Republican opponents in the Oct. 12 election are U.S. Rep. Dr. Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

On Friday, State Rep. Malinda White (D-Bogalusa) introduced Edwards at the banquet. White is also seeking re-election to her District 75 seat.

White noted that Edwards worked with a bi-partisan coalition to address the state’s budget crisis. When Edwards took office, he said the state faced a $2 billion budget deficit.

“It was 10 long sessions,” said White with a laugh, noting the many additional special sessions called in Baton Rouge to address the financial shortfalls. “But we got it done, and it was a bi-partisan effort. That’s important.”

Edwards also touted his ability to get things done through compromise. The state legislature is controlled by the Republican Party, which often clashes ideologically with Edwards.

“If we want to move our state forward, it’s got to be on a bi-partisan basis,” he said.

Edwards said that one of his biggest accomplishments in his first term was securing funding for education — especially the TOPS scholarship program — and for rural hospitals.

“When you fund education, then you create opportunity all across the state of Louisiana,” he said.

Edwards also said that he intends to secure a pay raise for Louisiana’s school employees, and to ensure that the four-lane Louisiana Highway 3241 is finally built. The project would connect Bush to U.S. Interstate 12.

Bogalusa’s Ben Nevers, who formerly served as a state senator and Edwards’ chief of staff, said that Edwards was a fighter for Louisiana.

“I’ve never seen a more hard-working man in my life,” said Nevers, who worked for Edwards from January of 2016 until February of 2017.

The members of the Washington Parish Democratic Executive Committee are Melvin Keith (chairman), Debbie McCloud (vice chairman), Lynette Bech, Levi Lewis, Jimmie Canter, Alva Martin, Florine Herron, Dana Walker, Beryl Schilling, Reginald McMasters and Stephen Genco.