On Monday morning, state Rep. Ernie Alexander surprised many supporters when he posted a new column with a Shakespearean title on his Web site. Titled "to be or not to be," the missive stated, "Today, I am undecided as to whether I will seek re-election or not." As recently as last week, Alexander indicated that he would be running for re-election, and felt that he might be in line for a high-ranking committee chairmanship position if a Republican governor is elected this fall.
However, with strong competition lining up to challenge him for his District 43 seat, Alexander is now considering calling an end to his nearly 20-year career in local politics. "I'm torn," Alexander says. Alexander was a supporter of two-term limits for legislators before the three-term limit passed, which is another factor now giving him pause about running for a third term.
"The pressure is on me to come up with a decision," he adds, "and that's why I put it on the Web site. Because if I decide not to run, I've got to let people know who might be interested in running that the opportunity is there."
Already gearing up to challenge Alexander is Page Cortez, a 46-year-old Republican and co-owner and operator of La-Z-Boy Furniture and Stoma's Furniture and Interiors. Cortez, who plans to officially announce his candidacy within the week, has already lined up an impressive campaign organization. In one week's time, he's raised $40,000. A host committee including Schilling Distributing Co.'s Herb Schilling and local landmen Rusty Peyton and Mark Hopkins is planning a fundraiser for Cortez on Aug. 20 at the Petroleum Club. A former high school coach and teacher, Cortez has a good reputation and is heavily involved with several community organizations including the Miles Perret Center and the Acadiana Outreach Center, as well as serving on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. And as a furniture salesman, he's already been on TV for years.
Cortez respects Alexander, but says this is an election he can't pass up. "I've been considering this for a long time," Cortez says. "There's going to be a new governor and a whole new legislature to speak of and I want to be a part of that change."
Cortez paid a courtesy visit to Alexander last Saturday to tell him he was running. "We had a great 45-minute conversation," Cortez says. "And he is a honorable man who has served very well on the council and he's served the community and I respect him for that and I told him that. But it was just a feeling that it was my time and I had to get involved or else I would have regrets down the road." Cortez also made the rounds to every other elected official in the area. "Out of courtesy, I thought it was right to let them know that I was entering the race. And I know most of those guys personally. I wanted everybody to be aware that I was getting involved and each and every one of them has been very sincere in saying, 'Congratulations and good luck and I think you'll enjoy the process.'"
For Alexander, who hasn't faced political opposition in eight years, the prospect of mounting a sizeable campaign may be daunting. On his campaign finance report for the end of last year, Alexander showed only $11,090 in campaign funds on hand. Alexander also has concerns about the political organization that appears to be backing Cortez. In his Web site column, he wrote: "It is not the challenger which gives me pause, it is the organization which is supporting the challenger." Cortez's supporters include Andre Fruge, president of Louisiana Capital Certified Development Company, one of the fundraisers and campaign organizers that helped fund and elect state Sen. Mike Michot and state Rep. Joel Robideaux.
Last week, Alexander went to clear the air with Michot, whom he considers a friend. "Ernie came to see me," Michot says. "He was very concerned that it would look like me as a Republican would be putting up a challenger against another sitting Republican. But there's no reason for me to be against Ernie Alexander."
Michot and Cortez were fraternity brothers together at UL Lafayette and have many mutual friends, some of whom are now working on Cortez's campaign. However, Michot says neither he or Robideaux convinced Cortez to run. He maintains that he and Robideaux, who together formed a Political Action Committee called Leadership for Louisiana, would likely remain neutral in any race between Alexander and Cortez.
"We did not put him up," Michot says. "Me and Rep. Robideaux are not sitting in some back room deciding who's going to run for the next office. [Cortez] is a man that's interested in serving and feels like he can do some things for the community. I don't think we can fault people that want to put themselves up and want to run for public office."
Alexander emphasizes that it's not the challenger that is swaying him against running. When Cortez paid him the courtesy call last Saturday, Alexander told him that he looked forward to the campaign. Two days later, the 74-year-old Alexander, who has served almost two decades as both a city councilman and then state representative in Lafayette, is considering whether the time is right to walk away from politics.
"I've really got to think long and hard about it," he says. "There comes a point in time where you just really need to think about is it time for me to step down or not. The primary [question] is, 'Am I going to do the eight years that I was originally committed to do and just get out of there, or am I going to stay in?' I just don't want any real ill will toward Mike and Joel. I really have got to sit and my wife and I have been discussing this for a few days. Of course, she's very encouraging, she wants me to run. And I'm just going to have to see how this goes."
Sen. Michot, who has known retired broadcaster Alexander for many years, says if Alexander decides to run, the residents of District 43 will have two quality candidates to choose from. "I work extremely well with Ernie," he says. "I have the highest respect for him and the job he's done. A political race is healthy. Everybody's entitled to get involved in the process. And if good people want to put themselves up, we ought to be proud of that and let the public decide who they want to represent them."
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand: