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."
Pot industry gearing up for holiday shoppers; uncertainty in Ferguson; Patriots' winning streak and more national and international news for Monday, November 24, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.