Sixth District GOP Congressional Candidates Took Aim at Obama Agenda at Debate

The Sixth District Republican Congressional Debate drew all eight GOP candidates and a packed house at Drusilla’s Seafood on Tuesday, July 8.

The Republican candidates took a strong conservative stand during the debate, although there were some differences in style and emphasis.  The eight candidates will complete with former Gov. Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, and several other candidates in the Nov. 4 primary.  The top two vote getters in the primary will face off in the runoff on Dec. 6.

The newly-configured Sixth District includes most of East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes and extends south to include the Houma-Thibodaux area.  The Second Congressional District reaches up from the New Orleans area and includes many predominantly black precincts in Baton Rouge.

The Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish sponsored the  two-hour debate as part of its endorsement process.  Candidates will receive extensive questionnaires from the party to elicit their stand on major national policy issues.  Candidates will also be interviewed by the party’s Parish Executive Committee.

Participants in the two-hour debate were:

• Capt. Bob Bell

• State Sen. Dan Claitor

• Businessman Paul Dietzel II

• Attorney Cassie Felder

• Coastal Protection chairman Garret Graves

• Businessman Craig McCullouch

• Dr. Charles (Trey) Thomas

• State Rep. Lenar Whitney

Each candidate had an opening statement of three minutes and a closing statement of one minute.

The question-and-answer period was unusual.  Each candidate was given 10 minutes to answer questions, and they could decide which questions to answer and how long to spend on each answer within the 10-minute limit.  Each candidate was given a set of red, white and blue cards.  Red cards were worth one minute, white cards 30 seconds, and blue cards 15 seconds.

Panelists asking questions were:

• Mark Ballard, Capital Bureau chief for The Advocate

• Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press

• Stephanie Riegal, editor of the Business Report

• Former Sen. Dan Richey

• East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor Pro-Tem Chandler Loup

• Rep. Valarie Hodges

• Tea Party of Louisiana chairman Cecil Cavanaugh

• Scott McKay, editor of

Capital City News editor Woody Jenkins, who is also Republican parish chairman, served as master of ceremonies.  Each of the eight candidates brought some of his own supporters, and no particular candidate dominated the crowd. The candidates spoke about their own background and preparation to serve in public office and discussed many of the major issues facing the country.

There were few if any sharp differences among the candidates, although some were more passionate on certain issues than others.

Mayor Pro-Tem Chandler Loup criticized the Obama administration’s failure to secure the border against illegal immigration.  Several of candidates responded that the solution to the problem of illegal immigration is enforcing existing law, rather than passing so-called immigration reform.

Stephanie Riegel asked the candidates whether Gov. Bobby Jindal was overstepping his authority by attempting to stop BESE from proceeding with Common Core.  Rep. Lenar Whitney came to Jindal’s defense and said his action appeared legal.

Rep. Valarie Hodges questionned candidates about their position on gay marriage.  All who answered expressed opposition to gay marriage.

Mark Ballard of The Advocate asked the candidates if they would commit not to “go negative” against their Republican opponents.  Garret Graves said he would not “go negative” but that he reserves the right to present legitimate policy differences between himself and any of his opponents.

Each candidate brought campaign literature and paraphernalia to pass out to attendees.

The decorations for the event were provided by Republican women’s club leaders Peggy Vidrine and Lynda Clower.

The meeting was an expanded version of the Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon, which is usually held at noon on the second Tuesday of the month at Café Américain on Jefferson Highway.

To watch a video of the debate recorded by Stacy and Dwight Hudson, go to or

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