Were voters saying, "Who cares" Saturday?

With nearly 68,000 registered voters in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, you’d think a decision as important as who will speak in Baton Rouge on behalf of the area would draw a crowd.

Judging by the majority of local voters, the answer to the question, “Who is the best man to lead the 20th Senatorial District?” is, quite simply, who cares.

Only 13,371 votes were cast – just over 30 percent of registered voters participated in Saturday’s election. Nearly 70 percent spent Saturday tending to other affairs, opting to forgo deciding whether state Rep. Damon Baldone, Brent Callais or Norby Chabert should replace former state Sen. Reggie Dupre, who left the job one year early to take over Terrebonne’s top levee district job.

Dupre would have been term-limited out of the position, so the timing was right. And the move became a “win-win” for Terrebonne Parish given his vast experience in coastal protection.

Although Dupre’s replacement will have a short time at the helm before qualifying begins for the 2010 gubernatorial election, the brief span is critical to our region.

The recent legislative session resulted in a number of cuts to vital healthcare and education programs. Terrebonne’s Leonard Chabert Medical Center and our private hospitals felt the impact of fewer dollars to provide quality care. Since 2005 when hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged south Louisiana, the patient load hasn’t slowed any.

And the administrative staff at Nicholls State University and L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College collectively held their breath in anticipation of the final total their school budgets would be trimmed.

Louisiana is unquestionably beginning to feel the economic downturn the rest of the nation has been faced with for months. During the fiscal-only session, lawmakers were given the tough task of making hard cuts to keep the state’s budget afloat.

And with the height of storm season just a few weeks away, residents of Terrebonne and Lafourche parish understand there’s much work still to be done.

Coastal restoration, Morganza to the Gulf and other “quality of life” projects are still on tap. Ensuring we have a strong voice speaking for these projects when lawmakers’ reconvene early next year is essential.

On Aug. 29, voters from this area will be asked to return to the polls to elect Callais or Chabert this region’s state senator. Over the coming weeks, we urge registered voters to study their agendas, ask questions, attend debates or town hall gatherings and learn more about their plans for this area’s future.

Come Aug. 29, when asked, “Who cares?” our answer should be a resounding, “We do!”