Filed Under:  Local, Politics

Polls show that John Young currently leads in Lieutenant governor’s race

29th September 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

John Young was on the verge of opening his latest field office in Monroe when the candidate for Lieutenant Governor sat down to speak with The Louisiana Weekly.

The Jefferson Parish President likes to boast that he has visited every parish in the Pelican State, and nary a festival has passed in the last year without an appearance by Young.

Yet the opening of his latest North Louisiana office, one of several, complimented by a television purchase of such size not even his closest rival Billy Nungesser has been able to match its ubiquitousness, underscored Young’s financial advantages over his rivals.



The Jefferson Parish President started his Lt. Gubernatorial campaign with over $2.5 million in the bank, outpacing Nungesser by three quarters of a million, and Kip Holden and Elbert Guillory by more than $2 million.

Despite his monetary advantages, the pace of Young campaign has often resembled that of an underdog, focusing his efforts outside metro New Orleans—where he has been unknown until quite recently.

“Well the message I’m trying to get out,” Young explained, encapsulating his platform, “is the importance of the Lieutenant Governor’s office as a revenue generator. In other words, the Lieutenant Governor’s office, unlike most state offices and agencies generates much more revenue than it costs to operate mainly through tourism—or culture, recreation and tourism.”

“But tourism,” he continued, “is a $11.2 billion industry as of 2014, the second-largest industry in the state. It employs over 223,000 people statewide. It brought 28.7 million people to the state in 2014 and this is the big number-It generated $836 million for the state treasury in 2014 alone. That’s $836 million we don’t have to collect from our own citizens, but its $836 million we can use to provide necessary goods and services to our citizens. Bottom line is for every dollar we invest in tourism we get a $38 return.”

“My message to all parts of the state is I want to build on the foundation that Jay Dardenne laid, and spread that tourism dollar through every corner of our state. Every Parish, every community in our state has a unique story to tell. The Lafayette area is the second-largest tourist draw in the state, after New Orleans, but we need to spread that tourism dollar throughout the entire state. And, I’ll do that by working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourist commissions, chambers of commerce, and local elected officials in each Parish of the State to make sure they get their fair share of that tourism dollars.”

LED, La.’s Department of Economic Development, occupies the two floors of the Capital Annex immediately below the Lt. Governor’s Office, yet LED’s non-cooperative nature—at least interdepartmentally—has frustrated most incumbents upstairs, particularly Jay Dardenne and his predecessor Mitch Landrieu.

Historically, most governors stop Lt. Governors from having any influence over economic development outside their tourism sphere. As a consequence, appointed officials at LED often hesitate to work too closely with the Lt. Governor despite the obvious synergies with the latter’s constitutional role as Secretary of the Office of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. That has led some, including Mitch Landrieu, to call for putting LED under the authority of the Lt. Governor’s office.

When asked it he agreed the Lt. Governor should oversee all statewide economic development efforts, Young replied, “Well I’d like to see that certainly. I’d like certainly like to see the Lieutenant Governor be more focused on pure economic development. Certainly tourism-leveraged economic development as we saw with motor sports [has proven very successful], but that’s no easy bet.”

Transferring LED to the Lt. Governor’s oversight is “up to the Governor and the legislature. I think it would be very worthwhile and impressive for the number two in the state to going to recruit business to invest in the state on behalf of the Governor and the legislature. Doing that as Lt. Governor, I think, would help us cross pollinate between tourism and economic development.”

Young also says, “We need to make sure we preserve State Parks, whose budgets have been cut to the bone. Museums too. Some are open only one day a week or on reduced hours. We need to make sure they are properly staffed and funded.”

Not surprisingly, museums, and cultural tourism in general, serve as THE key focus of Young’s campaign. In the interview, he celebrated the Louisiana Living History Foundation’s success at the drawing over 30,000 visitors to view the bicentennial Reenactment of the Battle of New Orleans. Organizing 1588 reenactors and constructing a battlefield to hold the five battles of the New Orleans campaign, and the group’s efforts to do it again this year on the weekend of January 8, 2016, the Jeff Parish President said should provide a model for cultural tourism efforts by the state. (

Partnering with private, nonprofit groups is the future, given the cash-strapped nature of the state budget, he contended. “Public-private partnerships are the key…That Foundation did a great job. We need to build on the historical tourism right there in St Bernard…and I’ll work with the Legislature and the governor to make sure we entrust those efforts as we move forward.”

In fact, Young endorsed the La Living History Foundation’s objective to found a National War of 1812 Museum. The Jeff Parish President went so far as to suggest that such an effort could partner with the LSM’s Cabildo Museum to help jointly fundraise—and to house such a facility with national and international appeal.
“I agree with [the La. Living History Foundation] that’s where I was going to go. We already have the National World War II Museum. Why not add a National 1812 Museum?”

Young served as one the earliest and strongest advocates for Louisiana’s live theatrical tax credits, commonly known as the Broadway South legislation. Noting that Elvis became famous thanks to “the Louisiana Hayride,” he sees no reason why many communities across the state could not become centers of musical performance drawing tourism from around the country. “If Branson can do it, certainly Louisiana can do it. We don’t have to manufacture it, it’s part of our culture, it’s part of our history. And there’s so much more we can do with our upcoming artists and NOCCA go and throughout Acadiana.”

“I plan on bringing to a new leveI what I did as parish president in working with the legislature—very very closely. Lobbying the legislature, not only myself but with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the industry people, the chambers of commerce, to get across the message. I want to tell not only the legislature and the governor—but to the public in general—that if we invest in tourism, we are going to get a $38 return for every dollar spent.”

Moreover, he emphasized, the effects are far greater than just making some tourists pleased with their visit. “The other thing that we didn’t touch on is the ‘Mainstreet Program.’ The historic tax preservation credit program is administered through the Lieutenant Governor’s office. That brings blighted, abandoned, dilapidated properties back on the local tax rolls. It increases economic activity in the core of our communities from small communities such as Bogalusa, Minden, Ruston—to bringing back the Hotel Bentley in Alexandria. People don’t realize the program is administrated by the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

“What other people don’t realize t is the Lieutenant Governor is the chairman of the Retirement Development Commission. We should be at the top of that list of attracting retirees to our great State. We live in a relatively mild climate. I know it doesn’t seem like it in July or August, but it beats seven, eight feet of snow in Ohio in the winter. And that’s what I’m looking at. Something we need to consider is looking at phasing out the income tax for people over 65 as a further attraction to our great state.”

“Look at this. We’re looking at probably the wealthiest class retirees to ever retire in the history of the United States with the baby boomers. We need to capture that demographic and bring them to Louisiana. We’d probably get more money back in sales tax.”

“And, you know obviously, I’m very bullish on the movie industry. Obviously we need to make sure there is transparency and accountability. I think we are going to have an opportunity to revisit that tax credit issue. Certainly I don’t want to subsidize Tom Cruise’s $20 million salary, but it’s brought investment to Louisiana. It has brought tourists to Louisiana.”

Young concluded, “Being Parish President of the second-largest parish in the state of Louisiana, being responsible for 3,000 employees, I’ve balanced budgets. I’ve brought Jefferson Parish back from a corruption scandal where we restored transparency and accountability. We’re fiscally sound. We have one of the highest, if not the highest, bond rating in the state of Louisiana. And working at the local level is probably the most challenging [job in government]. It’s the most rewarding, but also the most challenging. And I’ll bring that and be an ally to local governments throughout the state, and help move our state forward. So that experience, my experience as assistant district attorney and prosecutor, uniquely qualify me for the job of Lieutenant Governor.”

The primary is October 24.

This article originally published in the September 28, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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