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Air Force veteran seeks area congressional seat
The Courier - 9/18/2018
Sept. 18--A Democratic newcomer is making the rounds in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes ahead of November's election for one of the area's congressional seats.
Tammy Savoie, a Democrat from Jefferson Parish, is running for the First District seat against five-term incumbent and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Metairie.
Savoie has recently been endorsed by the Indivisible Project and Indivisible Metairie, two organizations that support candidates with progressive values. She was also recently endorsed by the Lafourche Parish Democratic Parish Executive Committee.
Savoie is one of the first graduates of Emerge Louisiana, which is part of a national effort to prepare women to run for office. If elected, Savoie would be the first female representative of the First Congressional District.
Four other challengers are in the running. They include Democrats Lee Ann Dugas and Jim Francis, Independent Frederick "Ferd" Jones and Libertarian Howard Kearney.
After retiring from the Air Force in 2016 after serving in the military for 38 years, Savoie said, she decided to run for office because she wanted to continue to serve the country.
"I needed to do more," Savoie said. "We need a different approach; people who will work across the aisle, people who are going to put our country above party and politics ... people above power."
Savoie holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of New Orleans and now provides mental health services to veterans and through the Red Cross. She is also an adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
When the state was redistricted in 2011, the southern portions of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes were put into District 1, which also includes portions of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.
The result is a lack of representation in Terrebonne and Lafourche, Savoie said.
"It is time that Terrebonne and Lafourche have representation in Washington," she said.
With a still-struggling economy that's shrinking at a rate of 10 percent a year, the area needs more investment from the federal level.
Savoie claims Scalise has ignored the needs of the Terrebonne and Lafourche area because it's such a small percentage of the district.
"Our incumbent, Steve Scalise, thinks they're not that important," Savoie said. "But that's a falsehood. I want to go to Congress and represent everyone when I get there."
The redistricting has left residents of Terrebonne and Lafourche feeling neglected and angry, she said.
"Slitting parishes and cultural connection was a disservice to them," Savoie said. "With split representation, it's not been difficult for Steve Scalise to ignore these parishes. As a result, they have not flourished."
Increasing investment in the local economy by supporting trade schools and craftsmanship is one way to help, she said.
Oil and gas, fishing and tourism are all local industries that "are really at the heart of what Terrebonne an Lafourche have grown into," Savoie said.
Reforming the flood insurance program is another priority. Savoie said she supports a plan to reform the National Flood Insurance Program into a nationwide disaster insurance program.
"Home ownership is an American dream, but that's falling out of realm of possibility for many in coastal parishes because of flood insurance," she said.
It's important to support the residents of Louisiana's coastal parishes, which support the nation's large seafood industry, international trade and shipping and agriculture, Savoie said.
The district has largely supported Republican candidates, including former Reps. David Vitter and Bobby Jindal, for decades.
In the 2016 election, Scalise was re-elected with 75 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, Dugas, received 13 percent. Scalise's numbers were even higher in Lafourche Parish, where he received 84 percent of the vote.
But Savoie said the district, state and nation are ready for a change.
"We're getting ready to go all out and give it everything we've got," she said. "I absolutely believe that the district is ready for a change."
Representatives from Scalise's office couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.
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