Decentralize: How Stephen Waguespack wants to turn the state around if elected next La. governor

Soon, Louisiana will elect a new governor, and Republican candidate Stephen Waguespack hopes to be the one voters put in the state’s highest seat.
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 8:10 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2023 at 8:27 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - In less than two months, Louisiana will elect a new governor. Republican candidate Stephen Waguespack hopes to be the one voters put in the state’s highest seat. If they do, Waguespack wants the governor’s office to have less control, giving more control to the state’s regional governments.

”We need a governor who’s not using this office as a stepping stone. We need a governor who’s not using this office as some throne to go acquire to implement power and just own this place,” said Waguespack. “We’ve tried that for 100 years. That is a bankrupt game plan.”

Instead, the self-professed “Conservative problem-solver” said he wants to place more control in people’s hands, having the state capitol work in partnership with regions based on their needs.

For Waguespack, addressing issues in the state is personal, dating all the way back to when he was a kid.

Growing up in Gonzales in the 1970s, Waguespack’s dad ran the local hospital, which was shut down when the 1980s ushered in a financial hit. His mom was a teacher before stepping down to open a clothes store on Main Street. That endeavor did not pan out.

“We were one of those families that kind of limped out of town in the 80s,” explained Waguespack.

Louisiana’s outward migration over the past few decades is driving Waguespack in his bid for governor, now watching from afar as his 20-year-old son attends college in Texas. Waguespack fears he may not return back to his home state.

Much of Waguespack’s campaign has focused on growing jobs and business opportunities, an expected focus having served a decade as CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industries (LABI), a powerful lobbying group representing the interests of the state’s chambers of commerce.

In order to grow those jobs and business opportunities and stifle migration out of Louisiana, which has largely impacted North and Central Louisiana, Waguespack believes the state needs to “decentralize” its government operations.

”Here in Louisiana, ever since the last 100 years, the state tries to be a micro-manager, almost like a nanny for the rest of the state, and it hasn’t worked,” said Waguespack. “So, what I’d like to do is get in there and decentralize, and push some of the power and dollars and authority and control out to local regions. Let them control their own destiny more and not be dependent on a state capitol that has largely ignored them for 100 years.”

Waguespack also wants to see the income tax reduced over time, fewer requirements for small businesses and a reformed education system.

For Louisiana’s schools, Waguespack supports a recurring teacher pay raise, as well as merit pay.

“I think everyone when they go to work, whether your a teacher or a fireman or a law enforcement officer or a news television reporter, you want to know that if you go in there and you do a great job, that there’s an incentive there for you,” said Waguespack. “That’s a natural human instinct. For teachers, it’s no different.”

He also is behind the expanded push for parental choice in schools, backing the new effort to bring Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to Louisiana’s public education system. ESAs would allow students to use the money the state already puts toward each student for other educational options, like private school or homeschooling.

“I think it’s a win-win for everyone,” said Waguespack. “It empowers parents to be involved. It injects competition into the education system, which is good for all of us. And it’ll make dollars more flexible and free up some of those recurring savings to where it could be invested in things like either infrastructure in the school system or even teacher pay.”

As for crime plaguing the state, Waguespack wants to see a number of changes implemented. He wants more technology, like cameras and license plate readers, as well as an increase in police force numbers and pay. He also believes more juvenile facilities need to be constructed to house and rehabilitate juvenile offenders or keep them behind bars.

“This catch-and-release thing we’re doing right now, it’s killing communities. It’s making everyone feel unsafe. We’ve got to stop that turnstile effect we’ve got right now,” said Waguespack.

Waguespack faces 15 other challengers in the 2023 gubernatorial election, which include six major candidates. Leading financially and in the polls is Louisiana GOP-endorsed Jeff Landry. As of July campaign finance reports, Waguespack brought in the second-highest amount of campaign cash, but it is still nearly $7 million less than Landry. He is also polling at around 5%, while Landry and Democrat Dr. Shawn Wilson have held on to a comfortable lead.

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