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."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)