Stephen Handwerk, executive producer of Acadiana Debates, takes issue with Walter Pierce's one-sided editorial.
[Stephen Handwerk serves in many roles that intersect with this project. He serves on the Louisiana Democratic Party's Executive Committee, State Party Central Committee, Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee, is a founder of Louisiana Stonewall Democrats and is currently the board president of Acadiana Open Channel. In this release he is speaking clearly for himself from the position of executive producer and not on behalf of any of the organizations he is currently associated with, save for the Acadiana Debates.]
In my role as executive producer of these programs (I was chosen by the Lafayette Democratic Executive Committee and Acadiana Progressives to lead this effort with my experience with AOC, knowing the rules, policies and what I believe to be my standing in the community) I feel I must respond to this column.
Walter Pierce took to the pages of The Independent today to help Representative lie to his constituents in what is likely the first, most certainly not the last, campaign stunt by the incumbent.
From the start we have placed in safeguards to assure that NO candidate was going to be ganged up on, abused or targeted. In fact NONE of the questions we are posing to the candidates are personal in nature. The only time a challenge or "follow up" question is given is when a candidate doesn't answer a question. or if we know what the candidate is saying is false (such as voting records or statements made in public). Acadiana Debates is being attended by the furthest left of the Democrats and the furthest right of the Republicans in the districts we have chosen to host. Why else would Don Menard or Anthony Emmons choose to attend? Clearly our group is not likely to agree with much of these candidates but they were adult enough to come to our forum and tell us how they would legislate - something all candidates for office, yes even incumbents, should have to do.
To the claim that Rep. Hardy makes that Porsha Evans/Beatrice Wilson may have an axe to grind with him and he brings up her past crimes. Firstly, Porsha was in a junior staff position at DHAP and was doing exactly as she was instructed by her superiors. Secondly, with regard to her past problems with drug abuse, these crimes all happened well over 15 years or more ago. I have known Porsha Evans for the better part of this decade, one in which she has done little but try to improve the community for ALL OF US - to bring help to those who need it.
As for her past, I ask the kind readers here: When has someone paid their debt for mistakes of the past? Does what she did more than a decade ago haunt her for the rest of her life so that she can't work anywhere? Does she no longer have the right to participate in civil discourse? NOT once did Rep. Hardy or his Legislative Assistant J.P. Stoshak EVER voice any complaint, concern or even mention Evans to me.
Finally I think the larger issue is simply this: Rep. Rickey Hardy lied to his constituents when he confirmed with us that he was going to attend the event. And The Independent helped him perpetuate this lie. Clearly if the representative had issues with any of the members directly involved with this production we would have substituted them out. A prime example of this is Evans worked for several years for former state Sen. Don Cravins. Since he is running for that senate seat, she will not be on the panel during that forum. This was a decision made by us weeks ago.
But at the end of the day what we have here is a political stunt. One that voters are tired of. Why are they tired of them? Because it doesn't' help educate one child. It doesn't help fill one pot hole, it doesn't put one person back to work or create one job. What could have been solved by one phone call, man to man, from Rep. Hardy sharing his concerns so that we could have had a real debate was lost for this stunt that was in the making for well over a week. So I ask you? Was it worth it? There are no other debates that we know of happening for this race. The incumbent will largely go unchallenged and not have to answer the questions the voters have. Perhaps come election day, then Mr. Hardy will have wished he handled this differently and not as a game.