Qualifying Concludes: Short Takes and Synopsis

At the start of the final day of qualifying for the statewide races, it looked to be a sleepy day with little action. Then, just about lunchtime, the stream of would-be candidates began flowing.

Rao Uppu, a naturalized US citizen and SUBR professor of biomedical science and toxicology, was the first to qualify Thursday, as he became Billy Nungesser’s first challenger in the Lt. Governor race. Originally from India, he said he’s running because he thinks it’s wrong to let someone win an election simply because no one bothered to challenge them. He says, “Democracy needs candidates, or it becomes extinct and non-existent.”

Willie Jones, Lt. Gov. candidate. Credit: Sue Lincoln

In the last hour of the day, another candidate for Lt. Governor signed up. Willie Jones, a New Orleans Democrat who works an independent claims adjuster, says, “The Lt. Governor’s office and the Tourism Department are long overdue for diversity. It’s time they push tourism in every parish, rather than just in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.”

Teresa Kenny, with no political party affiliation, has qualified for the Treasurer’s race. An alumnus of UC-Davis, she runs a bookkeeping service for small businesses in New Orleans, and said she has been thinking about public service for awhile.

Gary Landrieu, one of the “vanity candidates” for governor (those who have no realistic chance of winning, and presumably enter the race just to see their name on the ballot), who qualified Wednesday, finally filed a campaign finance report on Thursday. He loaned himself $75,000 and has spent nearly $59,650 of it ($35,600 on billboards, $10,000 on TV time, $5,000 on radio – all in New Orleans).

Bradley Zaunbrecher, candidate for Agriculture Commissioner. Credit: Sue Lincoln

Bradley Zaunbrecher, a rice and crawfish farmer from Egan in Acadia Parish, is running for Agriculture & Forestry Commissioner as a Republican. Though he says “Mike Strain is doing a wonderful job,” he also says, “I need to speak for my area, because the loss of our young farmers is a red flag.”

Charlie Greer, is making his second attempt to become Ag & Forestry Commissioner. For Greer, who spent over twenty years doing enforcement in the Forestry Division under Bob Odom, his antipathy for the present incumbent, Mike Strain, is personal.

Charlie Greer, running for Agriculture Commissioner. Credit: Sue Lincoln

“From day one, he has decimated the agency. He has the ‘God syndrome’, and so many have suffered at the hands of this career politician that I’ve got a good shot this time,” Greer says.

Thomas “TJ” Kennedy is running for Secretary of State again. He competed last year in the special election, and with no funding managed to draw nine percent of the total primary vote. He expects to push harder and actually raise money for his campaign this time around, because he believes “Voters are still looking for a clean sweep of this office, and they haven’t gotten it yet.”

M.V. “Vinny” Mendoza, a Democrat from Ponchatoula, and Patrick Doguet, a Republican from Rayne, each signed up for the governor’s race.

With one hour left on the final day of qualifying, Ike Jackson, a Democrat from Plaquemine, signed up as the lone challenger to incumbent Attorney General Jeff Landry. Four years ago, in the five candidate open primary, Jackson garnered 11-percent of the vote.

So after three days of qualifying, here are the totals of candidates on the ballots for each of the statewide elected positions:

Nine candidates qualified for Governor: five Republicans, one independent, and three Democrats – including the incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Three are signed up for Lt. Governor: the incumbent, Billy Nungesser, a Republican, and two Democratic Party-affiliated challengers.

Incumbent Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Republican, has two challengers from his own party, and one who is a Democrat, making a total of four names in that ballot category.

Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry faces a single Democrat on October 12.

Treasurer John Schroder has a Democrat and a “no party” challenger each looking to unseat him.

Five candidates will be on the ballot for Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry: three Democrats, including one female; and two Republicans, including the incumbent, Mike Strain.

Incumbent Jim Donelon has a single challenger for Insurance Commissioner. Both candidates are Republicans.

(We’ll have full-length stories on both the Agriculture Commissioner and the Insurance Commissioner races within the next week.)

While the following races will not be on every ballot in the state, candidates for these races are required to qualify at the Secretary of State’s office in Baton Rouge, rather than at the Clerk of Court office in the parish where they reside. Therefore, we’ll give you a brief tally of these ballot qualifiers, too.

Four Republicans qualified for the 1st District Associate Justice position on the Louisiana Supreme Court. The opening on the high court resulted from Greg Guidry’s appointment to the federal bench.

Eight seats on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) are up for election this fall. (The other three BESE seats are filled through appointment by the governor.) Three of the seats are “open,” with the current BESE member choosing not to run again, and four of the five incumbents seeking re-election collected one or more challengers.

In BESE District 1, incumbent Jim Garvey, a Republican from Metairie who is seeking his third and final term on the state education board, drew three challengers. The two women are Republicans. The male competitor is an Independent.

Kira Orange-Jones, 2nd District incumbent and Teach for America executive garnered two other contenders for her BESE seat. All three women in that race are Democrats.

Janice Perea, a Houma Republican, is trying to unseat incumbent and fellow Republican “Sandy” Holloway in BESE District 3, while in District 4, incumbent Tony Davis of Natchitoches, will be re-elected unopposed.

District 5 is an open seat, with Woodworth Republican Stephen Chapman doing ballot battle with Ashley Ellis, also a Republican, from Monroe.

Four folks signed up to run for the open seat in BESE District 6: two women and two men. One of the women is a Democrat; the other is an Independent. Both of the men are Republicans.

District 7 incumbent, Holly Boffy, a Lafayette Republican, will have to battle for her third and final term with BESE. Boffy is being challenged by a Gueydan woman, an independent candidate.

Four Democrats are vying for the open BESE seat in District 8: two women and two men.

Mailboxes filled with campaign postcards and pushcards are coming soon!