Sam Jones was Edwards' 'first true believer'

By Zachary Fitzgerald zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

John Bel Edwards may have had doubters during his campaign for governor, but state Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, certainly wasn’t among them.
The outcome of Saturday’s gubernatorial runoff wasn’t a shock to Jones even though it might have been a surprise to 95 percent of the people who just recently heard Edwards’ name, Jones said.
In Edwards’ victory speech Saturday night, Edwards called Jones his “first true believer” and said the two worked “tirelessly” together on the campaign, according to a video on WDSU New Orleans’ YouTube channel.
“I’m elated but not surprised,” Jones said Monday of Edwards’ win.
Jones signed on to assist Edwards in planning his campaign from the moment Edwards expressed an interest in running for governor through the 1,003 days the campaign lasted, Jones said.
“I always, always knew John Bel was going to win this election from three years ago when he first told me he wanted to run because I knew what kind of class act he is and how very thoughtful and qualified and capable,” Jones said.
Both Jones and Edwards, D-Amite, began serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2008. Jones will start his third and final term as a state representative in January after he ran unopposed for re-election.
During their first terms, Jones and Edwards sat across the room from each other at the Capitol. In their second terms, Jones’ seatmate didn’t seek re-election so Jones had an open seat next to him.
“He (Edwards) called me and said, ‘Sam, would you mind if I come sit by you?’ and I said, ‘No, I’d be honored. Come on,’” Jones said. Edwards was interested in working with Jones on some legislation, Jones said.
Jones then had heart surgery just before the 2014 Regular Session and couldn’t drive or get around, he said.
“I told him (Edwards) I was probably going to have to miss five to six weeks of the session, and he said, ‘Aw, no. You’re going to come and move into my house,’” Jones said, referring to Edwards’ house in Baton Rouge.
Jones was Edwards’ roommate for two years while they were in Baton Rouge during legislative sessions, he said.
“We spent a lot of evenings together planning this campaign,” Jones said.
In a July interview with Edwards, he said he and Jones are “extremely close.” Edwards came to Morgan City in July to visit South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Young Memorial Campus.
Edwards will now face the tough task of dealing with the state’s budget woes immediately upon taking office, Jones said.
Edwards plans to hold a special legislative session in February strictly to look at making “structural changes” to the budget so the state doesn’t have to make continuous budget cuts in the middle of the year, Jones said.
The process to fix some of the budget problems will be painful and will require “shared sacrifice” and everyone in the Legislature to work with the new governor to find solutions under his leadership, Jones said.
After legislators “get the budget problems under control,” then they can get back to doing normal productive things, Jones said.
Elementary, secondary and higher education and health care should be the top priorities for state leaders to address, Jones said. Among the health care issues the state must face are problems with some of the public-private partnerships in the state hospital system, Jones said.
“Beyond that, we’ve got to get back to repairing our bridges and roads,” Jones said.
Edwards also wants to further develop Louisiana’s ports and double the amount of money in the state’s port priority fund to $40 million a year, Jones said. Investing in the state’s ports is “a wise investment because of the world markets that we trade in,” Jones said.
Additionally, Edwards wants to start providing more funds for “job training schools,” such as Young Memorial, Jones said.
“He wants to get back to providing the finances necessary to train the workforce that the oilfield and all of our other industries need,” Jones said.

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