Q: Are you running for governor?
A: I’m considering it because I’m even more concerned about this state than I was when I ran for governor four years ago. People in Louisiana are even more worried about their jobs than they were four years ago and they don’t feel that the politicians care about them. Whether I run now or in four years depends on whether the voters like the job Governor Jindal is doing. If it’s clear they are happy with him, there is no point, but if, as the time for qualifying approaches, they seem like they want some alternatives, then I will see if what I have to offer matches what they’re looking for and decide.
Q: Your campaign report says “any statewide office” Does this mean you are considering running for lieutenant governor instead?
A: The lieutenant governor’s job used to be just, in effect, “there to serve in case the governor couldn’t”, with no real responsibilities. But since 1986 the lieutenant governor has served as the secretary of the Dept. of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. That’s a real opportunity to serve, by coming up with innovative ways to grow jobs in Louisiana. We haven’t even caught up with our pre-Katrina tourism. And I have some ideas for ways to do this that do not involve relying on the federal government. We need our own plan to fix the economy in Louisiana. We have tremendous natural resources. We endeared ourselves to people around the country with the recovery from Katrina and Rita and then the Saints win on top of that. We are not taking full advantage of the goodwill people nationally and internationally have for us and our own resources. I know could make a difference there, especially if I could be instrumental in causing one of the airlines to locate a hub here. We go after hub airlines because of the jobs they create and also because they bring leisure and business travelers to Louisiana.
Q: You’re the CEO of one of the state’s largest companies. How does that qualify you to be governor or lieutenant governor?
A: I have customers in every parish in the state. I’ve been in every parish in this state. I have 25 years experience in leading a large company, making solid and sometimes difficult, decisions, and most of all, serving people. At a functional level, state government is so much more like a huge business than you would believe, in terms of its complexity, its massive numbers of employees, its different functions. The best CEOs are visionary, courageous, decisive, and innovative. One of the most crucial things they do is hiring the right people, people who are on board with the CEO’s vision and know how to carry it out so that it works in thousands of literal ways. In my businesses, the best thing I’ve done is put together a great team. And I’m honored that most of the people who work for me in my businesses have been with me for more than twenty years. That’s a credit to them, and I hope it also says something about my ability to find the right people and put them in positions where they do well and feel valued.
Q: Historically most people who are elected to one of the statewide offices have served in the legislature first and built a track record there. You didn’t go that route. What makes you think you could be effective in the culture of state government?
A: I served in a part of state government that was, at the time, one of the most successful, one that made a difference in the lives of individuals and the state’s economy. I’m talking about the Board of Regents for Higher Education. I served on the Regents for seven years at a time higher education flourished. We flourished because we had a strong pro-education governor, Mike Foster. We had funding and we applied it properly, we made smart decisions, and we hired smart people. We built Baton Rouge community college, and made LSU-Alexandria into a four year school. It troubles me, deeply, to see the state go backwards in higher education. We are losing many of our best professors to out of state schools, and morale on campus is in the basement. It’s the wrong direction.
Q: Every candidate for major statewide office for years has talked about things like “bring our kids home”. How are you any different?
A: I want to eliminate income taxes for people 65 or older by cutting the cost of government and charging the same tax on cigarettes as Mississippi and Texas. It bothers me to see people who own businesses in Louisiana who live in Texas because of taxes. Many wealthy Louisianans, whether they’re in Bossier and move to Dallas or south Louisiana and move to Houston have businesses in the state but their official residences are in Texas. There are more LSU flags on cars with Texas plates in parking lots at the Houston Texans’ stadium than around the Superdome. That bothers me a lot, and we can fix it.
Q: What do you think the biggest issue will be for the next four years?
A: The economy. You can’t rely on outsiders and certainly not Washington DC to improve the economy of Louisiana. Our solutions are right here. We need leaders who care more about the people of Louisiana than their own personal political careers. I believe the day will come when we elect leaders who tell it like it is. I believe those leaders are going to come from the private sector. The days of career politicians will end. You can’t get anything done in Baton Rouge unless you have leaders who have real life skills and the courage to make tough decisions. We’re just hanging on, we’re not making things happen. The people aren’t served when you have leaders who just wait for things to happen and then show up and take credit for them. If I run, and if I get the chance to serve the people of this state, I will be the kind of leader who is fully present, fully engaged, and making thing happen.
Q: You ran for governor four years ago. What’s your perspective on the state after four years?
A: I have the same concerns for Louisiana that I had four years ago, but they’re even more acute. The economy is in bad shape. There’s no point in pointing fingers because doing that wastes energy you could be using enacting solutions. I see solutions! I see the opportunity to persuade retirees and business owners to come home. I see opportunities to improve education. My oldest child is graduating from high school and going off to college. My wife and I have been able to provide her with a great education, but not all Louisiana children have that opportunity because we’ve been letting them down in K-12. I’ve been blessed and it troubles me to see other people not have the opportunities they deserve because of poor political leadership and a troubled economy. My parents taught me that if you have the ability to help people, you don’t have the option not to try. I know that may sound corny, but that’s how I was brought up, its who I am, and why I am looking for a chance to serve this state.