By Adam James
Elections will matter in 2019. Lori Callais is running to flip the 71st state House seat in Louisiana. With a 25 year career as a teacher, Callais likes to tell folks that she prefers a “T” next to her name as opposed to an “R” or a “D.” She took some time out of her schedule to talk with us.
Education is the foundation, understandably so, for the Callais campaign, “I spent my life teaching and fighting for my students’ right to a good education. As the president of the local teachers’ union, I fought for the rights of teachers in our parish.” Callais, explains, “I know that education is the foundation we need if Louisiana is going to succeed, so I’m running because our children and teachers need someone who will put them first, not special interest groups and big corporations.”
Balancing the needs of workers and businesses is especially important in a state where one in five Louisianans are living in poverty. Callais wants to focus on the lack of skilled workers in the state, “A strong, educated workforce is key, Callais said. “And we can provide that by providing good educational opportunities for our students, promoting the apprenticeships that are available at our local unions, and ensuring our workers are paid wages that encourage them to stay in our state so we can attract more business and industry. We do not need to sacrifice workers’ rights to attract business; we need to emphasize the quality of the workers we can provide.”
Healthcare is likely to be at the top of voter priority lists, Callais reported that since the state expanded Medicaid in 2018, things began to move in the right direction. “Since that time, no rural hospitals have closed, 560,000 more people have access to healthcare and we have added 19,000 jobs and an economic impact of over 3.5 billion. That is one thing that I will continue to support, Medicaid Expansion.” But with that said, Callais identified room for improvement. “Louisiana is facing is a lack of mental healthcare and addiction treatment facilities. Like the
rest of the country, we are facing an opioid addiction crisis; however, we do not have enough treatment facilities to address this problem.” Callais points out that former Republican governor Bobby Jindall closed all but one mental health facility in the entire state. Sadly, our jails have become our de facto mental health facilities and that has got to be addressed.”
I asked Callais if she’ll be able to stand up to the powerful interest groups that still have a stranglehold the American healthcare system. Callais doesn’t shy away from a tough fight, “When my own child was 14, and had an adverse and almost fatal reaction to the acne drug, Accutane, I fought back. When the drug company did nothing, I testified before a Congressional Committee and helped get a Black Box label issued, warning about this life-threatening side effect.”
Callais is retired from teaching now but she’s ready for this new job, “I still want to give back to my community by being a full time legislator who will ask questions and deliver for the people in my district and our state. I’ve always taught my children and students that if we see something that needs to be changed, then we have to change it; that’s why I’m running to be that change in Louisiana in 2019.”
Another issue near and dear to her heart is how her fellow Louisianans spend their sunset years, “Our senior citizens need someone who will fight for their right to live with dignity at home for as long as possible instead of being sent to a nursing home when they need extra help.” Seniors also care about getting things done and so I asked if there was anything that came to mind that Callais believes that she can work with Republicans on.
“No one will ever agree on everything,” Callais said, “but there is usually at least one point of agreement people can start at and work from there. One of the most pressing problems and yet one most people do not even know about is the need to address our aging water systems throughout the Louisiana. I think we can all work together and make sure that the people of our state have clean, safe drinking water.”
Lori Callais is ready to bring a teacher’s sensibility to the 71st district of the Louisiana House of Representatives. You can support her effort to turn the seat blue in 2019 by supporting her campaign. Follow her @Lori4Louisiana You can donate to her campaign and find her on Facebook.