Weeks of campaigning have all come down to this.
The candidates vying for the Senate District 36 seat are making their final push toward the finish line. State Rep. Henry Burns and attorney Ryan Gatti are seeking the District 36 Senate seat, left vacant by term limited Sen. Robert Adley.
Burns, a Republican, received 40 percent of the votes in the Oct. 24 primary election, followed by fellow Republican Gatti with 34 percent. Todd Hollenshead, a Democrat and local businessman, came in third with 26 percent.
Burns will be watching the results of Saturday’s election at a watch party at the Gibsland
Bank and Trust Lakehouse Event Center at the Villaggio in Bossier City.
Gatti, however, will be out of the country on a mission trip. He leaves for Haiti Nov. 19 with his wife and two of his daughters.
“This is a trip we went on last year and they asked me to lead it this year so we signed up to lead it months and months and months ago,” Gatti said. “We made a commitment to this mission field that we would lead this trip. I don’t know what our cell phone coverage will be like so I’ve told people to record it and don’t tell me what happens. When we get home the day before Thanksgiving, we’ll watch it.”
Both candidates have shared their final thoughts going into Saturday’s election.
Burns said, “Our plan was to maintain the votes we got in the first round and identify those who were undecided and make personal contacts with as many as we could before the 21st. We’ve been very active with that and it’s working out pretty good.”
Gatti said, “The greatest thing that happened is we made the runoff. We know where our supporters are and we’re going to continue to knock on doors all the way up to the day the polls close at 8 p.m. Saturday. We are making phone calls and we’re talking to people. With us being in Haiti the last two days, we’re turning it all over to God and our supporters. We believe our supporters will be there for us the two days we’re gone and they will literally finish the race for us. We are 100-percent relying on God and our supporters to finish the race for us on the 21st.”
Each candidate discussed the issues they feel are the most important.
Burns said, “Obviously the budget. I know that they will go into a special session with whoever becomes the next governor and will have to re-prioritize it and also look at stabilizing funds for healthcare and higher education. That’s probably the number one issue. Some of the other issues are the state’s infrastructure and roads. We’re $14 billion behind now and right now we just have to reevaluate and prioritize where the funds we have are going. We’re faced with a $1.6 billion deficit. The only way that we can make progress is by taking a hard look and doing some better organizing of how the state spends its money. I’m very eager to be part of this special session. Education and healthcare are two of the priorities I have.”
Gatti said, “The first thing we have to do is send someone down there [to Baton Rouge] that will not follow the governor 100-percent of the time. We don’t know who will be elected governor, but we do know that my opponent followed the last governor 100-percent of the time and that was detrimental to our economy. So the first thing we have to do is elect somebody who will stand up for the people and not the politicians. We have shown that in my law practice. I stood up against the government in the Explo case. I represent everyone in Explo. Everyone in Doyline that got evacuated and I’ve stood up for their rights in Doyline. Just in my entire practice, we’ve always represented every day citizens. We’re going to continue that. You can’t elect someone who has taken special interest money. We have taken zero special interest money. I have spent my personal funds to fund this campaign. My opponent has taken probably over $100,000 from special interest groups.”
Gatti continued: “We have to elect someone who will not blindly follow the governor, whoever it is, and someone who will not take money from special interest. If you can fix those two things, you can fix the budget, education, roads and Planned Parenthood. If you elect someone who blindly follows the governor, then we are going to be back in the same rut eight years from now. The Senate is very powerful and we have to elect people who will standup for our Christian values, who will standup for our kids, and that’s what I’ve done in my practice and what I’ll continue to do in the senate. We have a budgetary problem because people take money from lobbyists.”
The Senate district includes all of Bienville and Webster as well as parts of Bossier, Claiborne and Red River parishes.
When asked why he wants to represent District 36, Burns responded, “It’s home to me. I live in Bossier Parish now and have raised my four children here. They all graduated from Haughton High School. I was born in Claiborne Parish. I spent my childhood years in Webster Parish. This is home for me. It’s where I met the people I went to school with, college with, served in the military with, that I work with. I’m very familiar with all the cities and the mayors and it would be easy for me to continue building on those relationships. This would also extend the ministry I started as District 9 representative into the Senate.”
Burns continued: “I will use the same philosophy I used in District 9 for District 36 – to reach out into the community, keep my door open and represent the people. I already know the priorities of my colleagues in the House and Senate. They know what mine are. I think we can do great things for this region.”
In conclusion, Burns said he “promises to just be Henry. My door will be open and I invite anyone to bring me their issues and I will do the best job I can for them. This is the area I chose to live in, raise my family in and I would be honored to have their support. The thing people say about me when I’m out and about is that I’m always the same person. I will continue to be that person and stand up for the people I represent.”
When asked why he wants to represent District 36, Gatti responded, “Throughout my practice, I’ve represented people in northwest Louisiana. That’s been my heart and that’s why I became a lawyer and have my own practice so that I can help people in the community. One of the main reasons I’m running is because my opponent said it was safe to do the open burn at Camp Minden. That’s quoted in the Minden Press-Herald from Nov. 14, 2014. That was a dangerous, unsafe decision. We joined with the members of the community in Doyline to shut down the open burn. I did not realize that we needed to have a group meeting to shut down an open burn that would have given a lot of people cancer. One of the main reasons I’m running is because I watched what happened with Explo and I watched my opponent say it was safe to burn those chemicals. Secondly, I watched him vote for sales taxes that would be devastating for businesses. So the reason I’m running is I don’t know who will be governor, but my opponent voted for billions in new taxes under a
Republican governor. I’m scared to death of what he would do if a Democrat got elected. My opponent voted for Common Core under a Republican governor, I’m scared to death of what he would do under a Democratic governor. That’s the word on the street. That’s what people have told me.”
In conclusion, Gatti thanked his supporters for their work in this election.
“It was a tough, but prayerful decision we made to continue our Haiti trip,” Gatti said. “Our supporters understand that we won’t be here and I know they will finish the race for us.”
Voting polls will remain open until 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.