Interview with Eddie Rispone
Republican candidate for governor, Eddie Rispone, sat down with KALB News Director Al Quartemont for an in-depth interview this weekend. The two talked about President Trump, Rispone's vision for Louisiana, and the reason he decided to run. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
AL: You're trying to do a lot of what he did - that is come in from an outsider approach and take that same approach the President did.
Rispone: You bring a different skill set. What we like to say, we're a conservative, we're a businessman, we bring a skill set not everybody can do, particularly a career politician. We're not beholden to special interest. We're not afraid to go up against the status quo to make the changes that need to be changed. That's what's happening in America. The previous administration said the GDP at 1 or 2 was good, he said no way. 3 to 4, 3 to 4. He said the manufacturing jobs were gone, he said no way, and we brought back 500,000 manufacturing jobs. Stock market is up, taxes are down. No way they said he could lower taxes, and he did. And so the same thing needs to happen here in Louisiana. We're last, we're ranked last in the country. The governor won't admit that, but we are. In several categories, we're overall ranked last. And I use this analogy, Al. I said if LSU was last, instead of No. 1, we'd fire the provost, the coaches, the water boy. We'd do something different, and so we need to do something different in Louisiana. There's no reason we should be last. We should be No. 1 in the South when it comes to jobs.
AL: It seems like one of the strategies the governor is trying to use is to link you to the past, specifically former governor Bobby Jindal, who I know you did support, but talk to me about that strategy and what you're trying to do to counter that.
Rispone: The only answer I have to that is I'm not Bobby Jindal. Bobby Jindal's not running, I'm running. I want to turn our state around. We have a governor who's a tax and spend liberal. And driving jobs, thousands of jobs particularly in the oil and gas industry through lawsuit abuse. We have the second highest car insurance in the country. It's killing thousands of jobs and commerce. But also, the lower and middle income families are suffering. We, who have a good job, it just aggravates us to pay $2,000 a year more for insurance. But you get a low or middle income family, it's a struggle. They have to decide between essentials and car insurance premiums. And what's happening - I'm talking to the insurance companies - it's a revolving door. They wind up getting behind, they lose their license or it gets suspended, then they get a fine, and the next thing you know, they can't get to work. It's a serious crisis right now that's going on and a governor that's not concerned with that. He's too beholden to the plaintiff attorneys. And in the oil and gas industry, I'm sure you've heard that, literally thousands of jobs have left Louisiana. We've had over 70,000 citizens leave over the last four years to find work. We've lost 12,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry alone. And so something has to be done, and it's going to take an outsider, someone who's not beholden to special interests.
AL: At the same time, what you hear from some citizens is concern that were you to win, the fear is that it would go back to the Jindal days, where you're looking at a lot of cuts and things like that. How do you find the balance to provide for the things of education and public health which always seem to be on the chopping block right away because of the way the constitution is written, versus not having the higher taxes which people seem not too happy with.
Rispone: See, that's the way career politicians talk. Grow government, raise taxes. Us in business, we know we just can't improve and raise our revenues. We have to look at the total package. We have to recognize our revenues, recognize what our overhead is going to be, what we have to prioritize, how to make ourselves more affective and efficient in what we're accomplishing.
AL: I heard John Kennedy say many times, it's not so much a revenue issue in Louisiana as it is a spending issue. I sense you agree with that.
Rispone: And it's spending it wisely. We may have some areas that we need to re-invest in, and some areas where we're just wasting money, it's not happening. So we have to take the dollars and cents and move it accordingly. And really, that's why I think we need to have a constitutional convention. We have to restructure some things to allow our elected officials to prioritize and make the changes. But we really need some structural changes, particularly in revenues and taxation. We would love to have no personal income taxes like Texas, Tennessee and Florida. They're all booming. But we can't just go and do away with personal income tax, but that should be one of our goals to make us competitive with the other states, but you have to look at the total package to do that. And keep it fair, and low, and competitive.
AL: Which brings you back to President Trump. He ran on a lot of things saying he'd do this, one of the things was tax cuts, getting conservative judges put in place, and on a lot of things, at least the things he's been able to, he's followed through with .
Rispone: He's followed through. The economy is booming, the taxes are lower, regulations are lower, unemployment is down, he brought in manufacturing jobs. In spite of this liberal, Democratic House that we have, that's fighting him tooth and nail. He's building a wall. Every turn he's had to battle, but he's doing what he said he was going to do. And he's protecting the country, and he's putting the country first.
AL: One thing I wanted to ask you, at what point in your life over these last few years did you really make this decision to do this, and why, knowing what you see the President goes through and what other governors, even this one, goes through. Do you need the hassle? Do you need the bother of all that when you don't necessarily have to do something like this?
Rispone: No, I guess the final decision came down to my faith. It really did. You know, God has blessed me and my family, and he's blessed me in a lot of ways, many, many ways, all the way from my grandparents down to myself and my spouse as I've been widowed and He gave me another wife. We have 24 perfect grandchildren. He's granted me some treasure. I came from a very blue collar family and worked all my life. It just got frustrating to see how He's blessed Louisiana with all these great natural resources, including our great people, and continually, we are last, 50th out of 50. And it just got to the point where I felt like we had to do something different for our children and our grandchildren and the future of Louisiana. And we have such a poverty in Louisiana. Over 130,000 children are in D and F schools. And we just continue down that road. We have a third of our population are on Medicaid. We have to work very hard to help those people get good, quality jobs so they don't have to be on government assistance. And it just came down to I felt obligated to answer what He wants me to do with this. He didn't bless me this way to go and just spend it on myself - time and treasure and everything. So that's why I stepped up.
AL: Sounds like you've lived the American Dream and would like to help other people get to do that.
Rispone: Yeah, that and really, more than that. More that it's what He's blessed me with. He said, 'you just can't sit back and absorb that yourself. You have to do what I ask you to do.' So that's really why I stepped up. And I don't regret it at all. My wife had to make that decision. She prayed on it very long. My children, we have seven adult children, they understand it. We have 24 perfect grandchildren, the ones that are old enough, they understand it. They know it's not just for them, it's for all children. And they'll have a future in Louisiana as well. They won't have to leave and go to Tennessee and Texas and Georgia and everywhere else. They can stay here and be proud to call Louisiana home.
AL: Sounds like that's your vision for the state.
Rispone: That's it. That's it.
AL: Thank you for spending time with us. Eddie Rispone, candidate for Louisiana governor.
Rispone: Appreciate it.