‘Fresh Vision:’ Crowley-based state rep. sets sights on Attorney General’s race
John Stefanski, 38, of Crowley, currently serves as state representative for District 42
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - In a lesser-followed race in 2023, the race for Louisiana Attorney General is not crowded but has fielded a few state officials already playing big roles in Baton Rouge.
One of those, John Stefanski, 38, of Crowley, currently serves as a Republican state representative for District 42, which includes Acadia and Lafayette Parishes.
SECOND TERM STATE REP.
While only in his second term, Stefanski has already taken on a leadership role in House and Governmental Affairs Committee, spearheading the redistricting effort in the 2022 Special Session.
In his legislative career, he has put forward bills targeting education and infrastructure improvements, as well as supported efforts focused on pro-law enforcement and pro-family policies.
“I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to work with all of my colleagues, regardless of party and gender and race,” said Stefanski. “I’ve been able to establish those connections and build friendships, and I think that’s enabled me to really have a lot of success in the body in a short period of time.”
Stefanski credits his work ethic and that he “ran for the right reasons” as enabling him to gain trust and be successful as a state legislator.
Now, he’s looking to continue to serve, this time in a larger role.
“CALLING TO SERVE”
Stefanski said the choice to run for Attorney General is a continuation of a desire to represent and support his community. As an attorney running a small law firm in Crowley, Stefanski said the firm handles several types of cases, putting him in the best position to run for an office that sees the same variety of cases from the local, state and federal level, as well as in the civil realm.
“I was told at a young age politics is a lot about timing, and it’s an open seat for that race. And I know I can do the job. I know I have the legal background,” explained Stefanski.
“ALL HANDS ON DECK APPROACH” TO CRIME
It would be difficult to find a candidate in the race for any political office in 2023 not pitching solutions to violent crime as a way to move the state forward. While the role of AG deals primarily with civil cases, Stefanski sees the office as needing to take on a bigger role in getting a handle on violent crime.
“Violent crime is a tremendous issue throughout this state. Obviously, it gets highlighted in our major cities more so than anywhere else,” said Stefanski. “It’s become such a problem, it’s affecting not only our quality of life, it’s affecting families, it’s affecting tourism, it’s affecting everything. So, in my opinion, we need to have an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
Stefanski wants to see every branch of the government taking on a role in solving the crime problem and using its resources to do that. As AG, he wants to be able to support local law enforcement and district attorneys, provide them with the resources to effectively prosecute and provide expertise for attorneys prosecuting those cases.
”If it means that we need to take a more aggressive approach in that office, and even get more into the weeds on a local level, I’m ready and willing to do that,” explained Stefanski. “Additionally, I believe I have the relationships in the legislature to be able to change some laws if we need to change them, as well, or even going out and potentially changing the constitution. I think it’s that serious of a problem in this state. And as attorney general, I’m gonna take that very seriously.”
As a legislator, Stefanski points to the need for consequences on the books for offenders who are convicted of violent crimes and contribute to the fentanyl epidemic.
In the upcoming legislative session, Stefanski has already filed legislation, HB90, looking to further combat the fentanyl epidemic and increase penalties for distribution or possession with intent to distribute the drug.
Over the past several months, debate has played out in libraries around the state regarding access to certain materials for children and teens, specifically those some deem as sexually explicit or obscene. Those libraries embroiled in controversy have recently sought out the opinion of AG Jeff Landry’s office to give guidance on making any changes to policies surrounding access to those materials.
A little more than a month ago, Landry’s office released the Protecting Innocence Report, offering up sample legislation and potential policy language changes, for concerned parents and library boards.
The Rapides Parish Library Board of Control requested an advisory opinion from the AG on the issue, specifically on the constitutionality of a proposed amendment to the collection development policy. The board received a response on March 21 from the AG, pointing them to the report and proposed legislation in the upcoming session, but declining to comment on the proposal’s constitutionality.
On the topic, Stefanski emphasized the library debate as a local issue. He said it can be difficult to discern the balance between what is appropriate on the shelves of each parish’s library.
“From the AG’s office perspective, again, I think this is more of a local issue,” said Stefanski. “I think you have library boards that are put in place by executives or even potentially elected in some places, and they need to make those decisions based on the local population about what they deem is appropriate.”
Ultimately, Stefanski said running for the office is about his love for the state and wanting to be a part of moving the state forward in the right direction.
However, he faces two candidates who carry a lot of experience. Liz Murrill, also a Republican, is currently the solicitor general, or second-in-command to Landry at the helm of the AG’s office. Meanwhile, John Belton, an Independent, is currently the district attorney for the Monroe area with 31 years of experience as a prosecutor in Louisiana.
That does not deter Stefanski, though, who believes he holds a unique position.
As a legislator, he has connections and relationships that he believes will assist him if he were elected to the AG’s office. He also sees his age as a benefit.
“I’m passionate about improving this state, and I want to be here for the long haul,” said Stefanski. “I think I bring a fresh vision to that office. I bring a new perspective. And I bring someone who has a really strong work ethic and is gonna always keep the state’s best interest at heart.”
The primary election for the AG’s office election is Oct. 14.
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