By Luke Britt/Editor
Covid mandates, gun rights and who should be allowed to wear a badge in Union Parish are among voters’ concerns if the questions asked at the Political Forum held in Farmerville Thursday night are any indication.
For about 90 minutes in the Willie Davis, Jr. Recreation Center, candidates running for senate, sheriff and Police Jury each made their case for why they deserve your vote while responding to questions submitted by those in attendance.
The Forum was organized by Downsville Mayor Reggie Skains on behalf of all the parish’s mayors.
“I think it went real well,” Skains said afterward. “Everyone was very civil. Let’s hope that continues throughout the campaign.”
Candidates in attendance included senate candidates Sen. Stewart Cathey and Ned White, and sheriff’s candidates Eddie Albritton, Chris Echols, Jeff Amendolia and current sheriff Dusty Gates. Several candidates for Police Jury were also in attendance, including sitting jurors Nathan Pilgreen (D-2), DeWayne Ramsey (D-3), Johnny Buckley (D-4) and L.W. Nolan (D-7); and challengers Charlie Young (D-1), Greg Gossler (D-3), Michael Holley (D-3) and Russell Wade (D-6).
Police Jury candidates who did not attend included sitting jurors Curtis Moses (D-1) and Brenda Abercrombie (D-8), and challengers B.A. Russell (D-2), Glen Hutto (D-4), Steve Auger (D-4) and Ronald Meredith (D-8).
State Representative Chris Turner and Police Juror Ben Bridges (D-5), both of whom are running unopposed, were also in attendance.
Each candidate in attendance gave a brief pitch but not all had to respond to questions because attendees who submitted questions were allowed to direct those questions to specific candidates.
Highlights from the candidates’ comments include:
Ned White, in response to a question about how long he has been a Republican: “I registered as a Republican when I was 18, then I went to No Party and went back to Republican in 2022. I will say this, I am a conservative here at home, and I’ll be a conservative when I vote in Baton Rouge.”
Stewart Cathey, on his stance regarding gun rights: “As a combat veteran I absolutely support our Second Amendment rights. I support constitutional carry, open carry. Unfortunately, the governor has vetoed both those pieces of legislation when we got them to his desk. Hopefully, with a Republican governor in the next term, which I’m pretty certain we’re going to have, we’ll fall in line with the rest of the states.”
Eddie Albritton, in response to a question regarding whether Albritton condoned a Facebook page created under a false name for the purpose of promoting criticism of Sheriff Gates: “Anyone in this room who knows Eddie Albritton knows I will look you in the eye. I will not stand behind anything fake. If you want to know, ask me. No, I do not stand behind fake Facebook pages.”
Jeff Amendolia, in response to a question regarding UPSO employees from outside the parish: “I want hometown people working at the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office. Hometown people know their way around this parish. People will be able to handle situations more better being here from Union Parish. Deputies we have working here that don’t live in Union Parish, I’m gong to tell you plain and simple, they’re going to have find something else to do.”
Sheriff Dusty Gates, in response to the suggestion that the UPSO response times are 30 minutes or more: “Our average response times are not 30 minutes. This is one of the largest parishes in the state. It’s a long way from Junction City to Sterlington. So sometimes, yes, it’s going to take 30 minutes to get there, but our average response time is about five to 12 minutes, and that’s not bad for a parish this big.”
Nathan Pilgreen, describing what he feels is a critical issue facing the jury now that the tidal wave of federal Covid funds is drying up, “The Detention Center is going into its third year of operating with a positive bank account balance. It is extremely critical that we do not have to use our funding to operate the detention center and can use these dollars, instead, for the benefit of our roads.”
Greg Gossler, on UP garbage collection, “I think we should, at least, look at the possibility of privatizing our garbage pickup.”
DeWayne Ramsey, on comparing Union Parish roads with those in Lincoln Parish, “I’d like to compare with Lincoln Parish, too, but it’s going to be hard to do. Union Parish doesn’t have the tax base they have in Lincoln Parish. We are working with a 36-year-old tax in our road program. If you’re wondering what’s the problem. That’s what’s it takes to make things happen. It’s money.”