JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - Former Senator Jerry Theunissen welcomed Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne to Jennings Tuesday evening. Elected back in November by 57% of the voters to fill the remaining year of Mitch Landrieu's term, Dardenne is trying to hold on to his job. He said in the last 10 months great strides have been made in the Louisiana tourism industry.
"It is an industry. It is a business. It means jobs for Louisiana. We've increased tourism jobs in Louisiana 5% since I've been in office. That is 10,000 new jobs in Louisiana. We are very proud of that - that's indicative of what tourism can mean to the Louisiana economy," said Dardenne.
While on the campaign trail, Dardenne made a big announcement for Louisiana's upcoming bicentennial celebration.
"It's kind of what we are calling the bicentennial bonanza - 200 free things to do in Louisiana," explained Dardenne. "While we will likely have more, this list is 200 free things that the people of Louisiana can do and visitors. Of course we'd like those visitors to spend some money, but we also want them to know we are a great state that welcomes them with some free things to do as well."
One of those free things - holding real live alligators at the Oil and Gas Park in Jennings. While holding Hampton, a one year old gator, Dardenne joked, "where's mom and dad?"
All joking aside, Dardenne got serious about his challenger Billy Nungesser, who fired back this weekend calling Dardenne a "career politician" and a liar.
"You get to hold public office because the people want there. And if you hold yourself out to the people and say I would like to do this job and they believe you've done a good job - and you're capable of doing a good job in the future... they are going to give you the opportunity to do that," said Dardenne.
"Billy's got an answer for everything except the question that is posed to him. And I hope he is going to be at some of the debates finally in the future. Supposedly he is going to be at one later this week and maybe next week. So I look forward to the opportunity for us to be side by side and let the people compare us and decide who is the best person to represent Louisiana," said Dardenne.
The former Senator and Secretary of State also reminds voters whoever they choose will be one step away from the governor's mansion. Should there be a vacancy the Lt. Governor automatically steps in.
"We need someone with the ability and temperament and demeanor and the skill set to be able to handle the responsibilities of running state government and my background and my experience and my record - I think certainly qualifies me to be able to do that," said Dardenne.
Early voting begins this Saturday, October 8th and goes through the following Saturday, October 15th. Election Day is October 22nd.