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