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By Crystal Stevenson

LAKE CHARLES, La (American Press) - Lake Charles native and Barbe High School graduate Sharon Hewitt said she brings a different set of skills to the table in her race for Louisiana’s next governor.

The Republican state senator, who is based in Slidell and represents District 1, spoke with the American Press editorial board via phone to share her vision of what the state could become under her leadership.

“I come from an energy background and no one is going to navigate the energy business and protect energy jobs better than I will,” she said. “I have a legislative background; not everyone in the race has served in the Legislature. I’ve been on the finance committee. I know the budget, I know where the money is, I know which agencies are performing well and which ones have challenges and what the opportunities are to correct those. I’ve been a volunteer for many years. I’ve been the PTA president more times than I can count and received the National Lifetime PTA Achievement Award because of the work that I did, which has been very consistent with my legislative work — focusing on technology jobs, better curriculum and higher standards for our students.”

As a wife, mother and now grandmother, Hewitt said she understands the difficulties families are facing with balancing their budgets when they’re looking at $5 now for a dozen eggs. “Families are having to walk away from their homes because they can’t afford it,” she said. “The high cost of insurance, mortgages, interest rates, flood insurance, I understand all that and I understand the heartache when your sons move away from the state of Louisiana after being born and raised here because they can’t find opportunities in Louisiana in their chosen fields.” Hewitt said all of those things have helped prepare her to lead the state.

“I bring a different set of skills and I think it’s exactly the set of skills Louisiana needs at this point in our history.”

Legislature

Individual and corporate income taxes have already been reduced and the 0.45 sales tax increase of 2018 goes off the books in 2025. Hewitt said she plans to reduce taxes even more.

“What we did last year in the Legislature and with the constitutional amendment our citizens passed put our state on a path to get to zero state income tax,” she said. “Most people don’t even realize that that’s what we did. We lowered the tax bracket on personal income tax from 6 percent, 4 percent, 2 percent to 4.25 percent as the top bracket and the other two were adjusted down also. Then we put a trigger in the law that says in years of exceptional revenue — and it defines how that is determined — that we would automatically reduce the tax brackets down and they can never go back up. The idea and the goal and what people don’t seem to realize is we are committed in the state of Louisiana to getting to a zero state income tax.” She said legislation approved by lawmakers and voters to do just that kicks in this year.

“Personal state income tax is a $4 billion line item in the state budget; the state’s part of the budget is around $20 billion, the federal piece of it is $20 billion. A $4 billion hit to a $20 billion state-funded budget is a significant piece so we couldn’t do that in one fell swoop. We had to do it step by step in a prudent way.” Something else she’d like to fix if elected governor is the state’s complicated tax code.

“Part of the problem with political solutions is that you kind of just Band-Aid over what was previously bad tax policy and just keep Band-Aiding over it,” she said. “We really need to be able to take it to a clean slate. One of the solutions that has been talked about a lot that I support is holding a constitutional convention that allows you to basically look at all the different ways that we fund government and look at not only simplifying our tax code but also restructuring the relationship between state and local government in terms of how they are funded and how decisions are made. We need to be able to push more authority toward local governments and provide opportunities for them to raise their own revenue so that everything doesn’t have to funnel through Baton Rouge.” Hewitt said Louisiana’s tax code is complicated because the state generally has higher tax rates that are often offset to make the state more competitive with hundreds of tax exemptions and credits.

“What happens is when site selectors look at our state, compare us to other states and look for places to relocate businesses or establish a corporate headquarters, they put just a big question mark next to Louisiana when they’re trying to evaluate that company’s forward-looking tax liability because it’s so complicated and it’s very difficult to predict. We have to flip off the Band-Aids and look at all the different ways both state and local government is funded so that we can level the playing field a little bit and make our state more attractive to businesses and families.” Hewitt said the state has been spending a lot of one-time money on infrastructure and it’s something she would like to continue. “When you look at roads, bridges, ports and airports, our wish list and needs are not fully funded,” Hewitt said. “That’s a great way to invest one-time dollars because we have such a backlog and those things are creating jobs, which helps rev up the economic engine. I’d like to see some more investments in courts, and I’d like to see us focus on smaller, locally owned bridges.”

Hewitt said there are thousands of bridges around the state that need to be repaired or replaced before they get to the point that they’re unsafe and need to be shut down. Case in point: the Interstate 10/Calcasieu River bridge. “That bridge is important to me because I grew up in Lake Charles,” she said. “I’ve been driving on that bridge for a very long time. When I got my driver’s license, the crowning achievement on the last day of class was to drive over that bridge without having a heart attack.” She said there aren’t many routes to get across a body of water so bridge closures cause families and the trucking industry to make 30- or 40-mile detours to find alternate routes.

Education

Hewitt said the best way to grow the state economy is to provide better and higher-paying jobs. “You reduce your taxes, you increase the high-paying jobs and the secret sauce to doing that is to have a more educated workforce — one that has the skills that the businesses in our state need,” she said. “When you have a company like Boeing tell me that they have 200 job openings that they cannot fill and they’re having to go to other states to fill those openings, that breaks my heart. We’re hearing those stories all around the state.” She said much of the work she has championed in the Legislature helps to address that, including establishing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) centers around the state. “The job of these centers is to connect the dots between what are the skills industries in that area need to make sure that our educational institutions are aligned so that we are providing the skills that students in Louisiana need so they can go to work with Louisiana companies and stay right here in our home state and businesses don’t have to look elsewhere for the talent that they need,” she said. Hewitt said she’s done a lot of work in providing alternate pathways in high school for students to concurrently earn a high school diploma along with an industry-based certification, apprenticeship or two-year degree. “They can go directly into the workforce upon graduation from high school, in many cases making $60,000 a year starting salary,” she said. “These are things not like the traditional welding and air conditioning repair like it was back in my day, but things like Cloud computing and computer coding and nursing and EMT — the kinds of opportunities that are being made available in many of our high schools. We have to prepare our workforce for the technology needs of the global economy and I’ve focused a lot on computer science and computer coding in our schools.” She said in Louisiana, only 30 percent of high schools offer computer science courses. In the states surrounding Louisiana, that number is 90 percent. “We’re falling behind,” she said. “Whether our students go into technology fields or not, everybody needs a basic understanding of technology these days to just survive on an everyday basis.” Hewitt said she’s also passionate about literacy, citing half of Louisiana’s third-graders are reading below that grade level when they move on to fourth grade. “If we could do one thing and only one thing in education it should be to teach our kids to read,” she said. “We need to be acting like our hair’s on fire on this issue.” Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said Hewitt’s Reading Education Savings Account Program legislation, which was passed last year, was the “most significant literacy bill in recent history.” The law creates an account for parents of students struggling to read to use to improve their child’s education outside of the public school system. Students who are not reading at grade level by second or third grade would be eligible for the accounts funded with the per-pupil state allotment for qualified education expenses, which include tuition, fees, textbooks, instructional or tutoring services, curriculum, and technological devices. She also championed a bill the year before that requires public schools to create and develop a literary assessment for every K-3 student. It would be given within the first 30 days from the beginning of school, and the results would tell teachers and principals the percentage of students reading below, at or above grade level. If a student is found to be below the reading level for that grade, the school would have to notify the parent or guardian in writing within 15 days. The school would also have to provide the parent or guardian mid-year and end-of-the-year updates as well as suggest tools to use at home to increase the student’s reading level. “Many times, parents are caught off guard and don’t realize their child is behind,” Hewitt said. “If you are not reading by the time you leave third grade, you are destined for a lifetime of challenges. We don’t teach reading in the fourth grade, we’re assuming you know how to read and now you’re reading for comprehension to learn science and social study. We’re doing a huge disservice to our readers by not getting them reading long before the third grade.” Hewitt said in the upcoming legislation, she plans to take on the math challenges students face. “Our students are not where they should be performing on math skills, either, because we’ve gotten away from the basics,” she said. “We’re not teaching the basic addition and multiplication facts, for example. I think it’s time for us to take education and say, ‘We’ve had enough. We can’t just keep tweaking around the edges. We have to be completely committed to getting our kids where they need to be so they can compete in a global economy.’ ”

Industry

Hewitt, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from LSU and went on to become one of the first female executives in a major oil and gas company, said no one will be a stronger advocate for oil and gas jobs in Louisiana than her. Before becoming a legislator, Hewitt took charge of Shell’s central deepwater assets situated in the Gulf of Mexico, a division of more than 160 employees with a budget in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars a year. In that position, she said she oversaw roughly 10 percent of the oil production in the United States and was trusted with managing billions of dollars in assets. “Shell was the No. 1 company on the Fortune 500 list when I was there,” she said. “I say that because I learned my leadership skills with some of the best leaders in the world. I learned ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ from Stephen Covey himself. Not only was I given great opportunities for formal leadership training but also through the job that I was given and the opportunities that I had there. I started out as all new young engineers do on a drilling rig for a year. There weren’t women offshore. There were unique challenges because many people did not think that women belonged in the oil industry. Fast forward 20 years and I was managing Shell’s central deepwater Gulf of Mexico business.” Hewitt said her background makes her the best person to  help Louisiana navigate and open its doors to other energy businesses. “There’s tremendous interest in our state, certainly in LNG,” she said. “I’ve done a lot to help fund some of the research required for other energy businesses in our four-year institutions so that Louisiana will be well-positioned to be an energy leader in all aspects of energy. Oil and gas is not going away and I’m going to stand up for Louisiana in fighting those bad policies coming from the federal government that will hurt Louisiana and will hurt jobs. There’s nothing more important to our state than being energy independent and not dependent on those countries that are bad actors or not friends of the United States and no one can do that like the state of Louisiana.”

CLICK HERE to watch Sharon Hewitt's announcement video.

Former Shell engineer turned state lawmaker hopes to be the 'right candidate"

By Alena Noakes

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A life in politics is not something State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-District 1) set out to do in her career. But, of course, life changes, and in 2015 Hewitt made the decision to enter into the realm of state politics to make a difference, feeling that the state was “heading in the wrong direction.”

Now, in her second term as senator for District 1, she is looking to continue doing that from the state’s highest seat as Louisiana’s 57th governor.

”I think you need a leader that knows how to focus on the things that are most important, that are going to move our state forward, they’re going to be able to streamline our operations,” said Hewitt. “You know, much like a very large oil company, our state is fat and bloated and very bureaucratic. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to look at that and to be able to see how to do things differently, not just kinda continue to nibble along the edges and hope that things get better.”

Hewitt joined the field of Republican candidates on Friday, Jan. 13, and she jumped right into campaigning on the road with a media tour the next week, including a stop in Alexandria to sit down with News Channel 5 and visit members of Rotary.

“We’re introducing ourselves to the voters, and you can do that one of two ways. Of course, you can buy that with money and advertising, and you can also do it the old-fashioned way and hit the ground and shake a lot of hands,” said Hewitt.

While Hewitt said many people assume she is starting from ground zero in having name recognition around the state, she said she is no stranger to this part of the state.

“I have always spoken and traveled the state really since being elected. And it’s because I came to realize very early on that my vote impacts everybody in the state, not just my district,” explained Hewitt. “And that it was important for me to understand industries all around the state, as someone that has always been very committed to economic development.”

Those industries include agriculture, cybersecurity happening in northwest Louisiana and the military bases scattered across areas north of I-10.

Hewitt noted the need for improved infrastructure, aid for farmers working in the agribusiness, expanding broadband across rural Louisiana and repairing water and sewer systems across the city.

“People expect the government to be able to provide water and sewer and safety and those core things,” said Hewitt. “And so, those are all things that we’re going to want to focus on and that I’ll continue to focus on as governor.”

Legislatively, Hewitt has focused much of her work on solving problems in the education system, developing STEM programs and building the state’s workforce, but she highlighted the need to address generational issues moving forward.

”We do a lot of talking, and we don’t take enough action, and I see myself more as a doer. We have for decades talked about our failing tax structure, our struggling schools, rising crime in our cities but have lacked the courage and leadership, in my opinion, to really move our state forward,” she said.

Overall, Hewitt believes people want their personal freedoms preserved.

“Less government and more personal freedom so that people have the opportunity to make choices,” said Hewitt.

With a growing field of candidates, especially from members of her own party, Hewitt believes what sets her apart is the background that has defined her approach to issues.

In college, Hewitt was one of few women pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at LSU, an educational decision that led her to big things with Shell plc, an oil and gas company. During her first year in the early 1980s, she was assigned to a drilling rig offshore.

“Just like anything else, you demonstrate that you’re gonna work harder than anybody else and that you’re smart, and you deserve to be there, and you’re gonna be a team player, and you ultimately kind of win them over and win their respect,” said Hewitt.

Her career spanned 20 years, managing a big part of Shell’s Central Deepwater Gulf of Mexico business with billions in assets, thousands of employees and 10% of the company’s production when she left to be a stay-at-home mom because her 3rd-grade son was struggling with his multiplication tables.

Her decision to run for governor, however, will present a new challenge, with the Louisiana GOP’s unprecedented endorsement of Attorney General Jeff Landry before any other contenders even entered the field.

”It is not up to a small group of individuals to sort of choose who that person is going to be, and that’s exactly what the state party has done. What the state party is supposed to do is to support all Republican candidates until you have one Republican in the race. They’ve chosen not to do that,” said Hewitt. “It’s a false narrative to believe that the reason we lost in past elections was because we didn’t all get behind one candidate. I would submit to you the reason we lost these past elections is because we didn’t have the right candidate.”

Landry’s campaign has already garnered $5 million in cash. However, Hewitt said while Landry’s campaign will have the largest amount of monetary support, it will not determine the success of his campaign.

“We know that money doesn’t necessarily win elections. If it was just about money, we’d have Eddie Rispone for governor and we’d have Hillary Clinton for president,” Hewitt said.

She said her campaign will be smart with money, and they are confident they will raise enough to have a competitive one.

Hewitt is not alone as a contender, though. In addition to Landry, she faces Republican challenges from her colleague, State Rep. Richard Nelson, State Treasurer John Schroder, and Xan John, as well as Independent candidate Hunter Lundy.

Source: KALB - by Alena Noakes

By Tyler Englander

MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Just days after announcing her candidacy for Governor, State Senator Sharon Hewitt (R-01) stopped by the KNOE studios for an exclusive interview.

Hewitt says her trip to Monroe on the first business day since entering the race proves she cares about every corner of the state.

“The big message we hear when we come up here is people say ‘don’t forget about us,’” Hewitt told KNOE. “There is more to Louisiana than just what is South of I-10. I want you to know that I hear that loud and clear.”

Hewitt says her top priority will be education, and that starts with rethinking how Louisiana teaches its next generation.

“The call is the science of reading,” explained Hewitt. “You are teaching phonics. You have teacher interventions. You have testing that is identifying reading deficiencies earlier. You’re teaching teachers at the college level this new way of teaching how to read.”

Hewitt adds to ensure student success, high schools across the state should develop programs allowing students to obtain career readiness certificates to enter the workforce.

“It’s not just welding and air conditioning and the kinds of things we had back in my day,” Hewitt said. “It’s computer coding. It’s nursing. It’s cloud computing. A lot of those things where those students can graduate and go right into the workforce making $60,000 a year.”

Hewitt, a Republican from Slidell, says for too long, Louisiana has lost out on economic development opportunities because the state doesn’t have a trained workforce.

“That’s on us because we are not training the workforce and listening to the businesses in our community and developing those partnerships that would be so important,” explained Hewitt.

Finally, Hewitt says she does support eliminating the state income tax, but favors an approach to phase it out over several years.

“You are giving businesses the confidence that we have a long-term plan and a commitment to get to zero and that we are doing it in a smart way,” said Hewitt. “We are not going to have a knee-jerk reaction and swing the pendulum in a different direction.”

On the Republican side, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Treasurer John Schroder have announced their candidacy. Lake Charles Attorney Hunter Lundy is running as an independent.

Source: KNOE - by Tyler Englander

Senator Sharon Hewitt, Republican District 1, joins Newell to talk about the announcement that she's running for governor of Louisiana.

>>CLICK HERE to watch Sharon Hewitt's Governor campaign announcement video.

>>CLICK HERE to Get Involved and Join #TeamSharon

By Allison Bruhl

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Republican Senator Sharon Hewitt announced Friday she will be running for Louisiana governor.

“Politicians have failed our state for decades, saddling us with a failing tax code, struggling schools, and rising crime in our cities,” Hewitt stated. “It’s time for a governor who will get things done. That’s why I’m running to lead this great state I love.”

Hewitt has served in the state senate since 2016. She led efforts in the redistricting session in 2022 and has passed multiple bills focused on election integrity. Before her time in the state legislature she was an engineer for Shell on an offshore oil rig.

State Treasurer John Schroder, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Hunter Lundy are also in the race for governor.

“Louisiana politics is famous for big characters who talk a big game,” Hewitt said. “But it isn’t the talkers who make things happen… it’s the doers.”

In her announcement, Hewitt said she would put her experience in business “to work” to grow the state’s economy, cut taxes and create more opportunities in the state.

Click here to watch Hewitt's announcement video.

By Sam Karlin, Staff Writer, NOLA.com, January 13, 2023 —

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, announced Friday she will run for governor, capping a week of highly anticipated entries into the race to succeed Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Hewitt announced Friday she intends to compete for the open seat, which is being vacated because Edwards, a Democrat, is term-limited.

As chair of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, Hewitt led the Senate GOP’s redistricting efforts last year, and had influence on voting issues, gubernatorial appointments and legislative affairs. She is also chair of the Senate GOP delegation. She was first elected to the Senate in 2015.

Hewitt said in a statement she's running to cut taxes and grow the economy, touting her business background. In a biographical spot released Friday, Hewitt played up her background working for Shell on deepwater rigs after graduating from LSU. Hewitt says she was one of the first women executives of an oil major.

She decried “big characters who talk a big game,” casting herself as a “doer” who would improve education, support the oil industry and “reject anti-police, soft-on-crime policies.”

“Politicians have failed our state for decades, saddling us with a failing tax code, struggling schools, and rising crime in our cities,” Hewitt said. “It’s time for a governor who will get things done. That’s why I’m running to lead this great state I love."

She joins Attorney General Jeff Landry and Treasurer John Schroder, both Republicans, in the field of declared candidates. The field is expected to get crowded after U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser all opted out of the race.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, is also considering a bid. He said in a radio interview this week that his phone has been “absolutely blowing up” since Kennedy announced he wasn’t running. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, a Republican who ran fourth in the 2015 primary, said Friday he is not running this time despite getting calls encouraging a bid. State Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, is mulling a bid.

Hunter Lundy, an independent trial attorney from Lake Charles, also announced his candidacy this week. Lundy ran for Congress in 1996 as a Democrat, losing to Chris John in a runoff.

On the Democratic side, Edwards’ transportation secretary, Shawn Wilson, state Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt and East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore all say they’re considering bids. If Democrats coalesce around one candidate, many observers expect the Democrat to be a lock for a runoff. Louisiana has a unique jungle primary system where all candidates face off in the primary, regardless of party, and the top two vote getters advance to a runoff if no one hits 50%.

If elected, Hewitt would be the state’s first woman Republican governor. Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the only woman to serve as the state's chief executive, was a Democrat.

At this point, Landry holds a big fundraising edge over his competitors, and he also wields an unusual early endorsement from the state Republican party. But challengers hope to capitalize on Landry's tendency to be a polarizing force in state politics, which stems from his eagerness to wade into divisive cultural issues and engage in public spats with other elected officials.

The next campaign finance reports are due in February, but Landry’s campaign said he will report $6.5 million on hand between his campaign and PAC. Hewitt had about $288,000 on hand the last time she reported, about a year ago, while Schroder had about $2 million on hand.

State legislators are at a disadvantage in a gubernatorial race for a couple reasons, said John Couvillon, a Republican pollster. They have a smaller constituency of people who know them than statewide officials, and as a consequence, they tend to have a harder time raising money.

But Edwards was a little-known state representative in 2015 when he ran for governor, and he caught fire, amassing significant money on his way to a shocking upset over then-U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who many saw as the frontrunner.

Couvillon said the summer months are crucial for candidates to spend money getting their name out and introducing themselves to voters. He also said it remains to be seen whether any Republican candidate will seek to carve out what Couvillon called a “swim lane” in the middle of the field.

Read full article: https://www.nola.com/news/politics/elections/northshore-republican-sharon-hewitt-gets-in-governors-race/article_a910bb8e-58b6-5aab-9406-348a23998754.html

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