La. gubernatorial candidates try to distinguish themselves in latest debate

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – From budget to transportation, voters have seen similar styles from three of the top candidates hoping to be Louisiana’s next governor. Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle and Democrat John Bel Edwards have all have pledged to take on the budget deficit and protect funding for coastal restoration.

The three gubernatorial hopefuls appeared once again on a live, televised debate hosted by Raycom Media.

“If you put them on an ideological spectrum, you’d have David Vitter on the right, John Bel Edwards on the left with Angelle and Dardenne somewhere in the middle, but they’re all right of center,” said Jeremy Alford of LA Politics.

However, Alford said in Monday’s TV debate voters saw the three candidates come into focus individually. On expanding Medicaid, Edwards stood alone in accepting the federal dollars as is.

“I support the Medicaid expansion,” said Edwards. “It’s the right thing to do to bring our money back to Louisiana so our working poor get healthcare coverage at our hospitals treated by our doctors.”

When asked about mental health, Angelle spoke passionately about the state’s challenges, even bringing up his wife who is a counselor in training.

“Mental health is the next big issue,” said Angelle. “Within 180 days of office, the Department of Health and Hospitals would provide to me a regional assessment.”

Dardenne made it clear education would be his top priority, saying 50-50 funding is possible to attain for students.

“Higher education would start the slow climb between state support and the tuition that students are paying,” said Dardenne.

Alford also noted the candidates had a chance to address incarceration rates, an issue that had not been widely addressed before. All three agreed Louisiana’s rates are too high, and that focusing on first-time, nonviolent offenders may be a way to start lowering those rates.

Missing from the action was David Vitter who declined the debate invitation. Vitter has, for the most part, been the frontrunner in the race. Alford said the strategy of laying low is all too familiar when the stakes are high.

“Quite frankly, it works for candidates that want to limit media exposure,” said Alford. “They want to control their message.”

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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