Pierre threatens to nix debate

by Walter Pierce

"Every time he's in the paper it's negative in relation to someone that is quote-unquote a negative figure in the community."

District 44 House of Representatives candidate Vince Pierre on Monday threatened through his campaign to boycott Monday's scheduled debate on the UL campus if a representative of the The Independent participated as a panelist. Dr. Robert Buckman, the UL journalism professor who arranged the debate, declined to acquiesce to the Pierre campaign's demands; Emily Henagan, a UL journalism student and Ind intern, will be part of the panel of journalists posing questions to Pierre and incumbent Rep. Rickey Hardy.

By mid-morning Monday Buckman had worked out what amounts to a compromise: Pierre agreed to attend the debate but vowed to not answer questions posed by Henagan. (The debate format stipulates that questions posed by panelists be applicable to both candidates; in other words, no "gotcha" questions will be allowed.)

Ashley LaStrapes, Pierre's public relations representative, tells The Ind that Pierre's attempt to block this newspaper from participating in the debate stems from what Pierre views as unfavorable coverage over the last several weeks. "Every time he's in the paper it's negative in relation to someone that is quote-unquote a negative figure in the community," LaStrapes says, referring to former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, a lightning rod in north Lafayette politics and a former political opponent of Hardy's whom Hardy beat in a runoff four years ago for the District 44 seat.  "[Chris Williams is] not a part of the campaign staff, but every time we talk to you guys it's been the same thing - it's been a question about Chris Williams," LaStrapes adds.

In our Oct. 26 cover story, "The Ex Factor," this newspaper examined the relationships between Williams and several campaigns including the Pierre campaign.

Hardy got 43 percent of the vote to Pierre's 40 percent in the three-person primary Oct. 22. The third candidate, attorney Roshell Jones, received 17 percent. Jones has since endorsed Hardy for re-election. The runoff is this Saturday, Nov. 19.

Today's debate is set for 1 p.m. in Room 241 of Burke-Hawthorne Hall.