Post-election a time for healing across the state

The voters have spoken, throughout Louisiana and right here, on the bayous of Terrebonne and Lafourche.

The campaigns of 2015 have resulted in the selection of a new governor for the state, as well as a lieutenant governor and attorney general. Locally, there are three new state representatives. Voters in Terrebonne and, more recently, Lafourche, have selected new parish presidents.

The councils of both parishes have new members, as well.

The democratic process has come at a cost. The divisive, rancorous messages of political action committees have been among the loudest and the most attention grabbing.

Politics in the Bayou Country has always been a rough-and-tumble business. But this year had a rougher edge, and the tumbles some candidates endured have led to hurt feelings, the dissolving of friendships and destruction of alliances.

The temptation is to look at what has occurred and say the spiritual cost to our communities from attack ads can be written off.

But it shouldn’t.

While it is understandable that in coming years legislators will be heavily focused on fiscal issues, it is our hope that they will have time to take a closer look at the tone and effectiveness of our state’s ethics and election laws.

The Federal Elections Commission has some strong provisions regarding PACs that are not present when it comes to our own local races, such as mandated non-communication between PACs and candidates, as well as attribution and disclaimer requirements.

Louisiana’s law concerning PACs relate more to requirements of record-keeping, which is a start but not enough.

Voters in state and local campaigns have every bit as much interest in knowing who is paying for messages they receive as do voters in federal elections for Congress and the presidency.

But our state laws fall short of the mark.

While we are on the topic of elections and their outcomes, a word of welcome is in order for Governor-elect John Bel Edwards.

We would like to say that Edwards ran a clean campaign. But its focus on U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s extracurricular admissions – acknowledgements that have been cryptic and unsatisfying – while effective, is disturbing.

The people have spoken, and so have had the last word.

The question now is what Edwards will do with his mandate. He is entitled to a clean slate, and from the time he takes office will be subject to the praise or criticism of those he governs, on his own individual merits.

In the case of Edwards, so far as we can see, the approval of Louisiana residents, rather than those of other states, will be a priority. Bobby Jindal, who came to the governor’s mansion with such promise when first elected, undeniably forsook his state for failed presidential ambitions.

One of the ways he can make a huge difference is to develop a culture in the office that is outwardly a living example of how government can function while being open and accessible, where the default is to reveal its inner workings to those who foot the bill and are to be served, and begin to undo the secrecy that the Jindal administration has embraced.

Our newly elected legislators should follow suit, taking encouragement from colleagues like Rep. Dee Richard, who has challenged at every step the laws that placed additional walls between the people and the Capitol.

The necessities of government, and the tough decisions that lie ahead, will likely turn newly elected State Rep. Tanner Magee’s thoughts this week about a short honeymoon into prophecy. And while Magee was referring to his own situation, we have no doubt that this will apply as well to the new governor.

And one final word from us: As new faces enter our government and our history, we thank those whose terms have come to an end, as we congratulate those who now take up the tasks at hand. •