Rabalais: Slidell Mayoral Race (Plus Others) Is Anybody’s Game

In terms of the March 24 elections, no other city-wide race quite matches the dynamics of Slidell’s mayoral contest, which locals describe as wide open with four candidates slugging it out. 

From the perch of Baton Rouge, a lot of attention has been placed on Rep. Greg Cromer and Kevin Davis, the former St. Tammany parish president and GOHSEP director under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Davis, in particular, enjoys the advantage of parish-wide name recognition and he had a seasoned political apparatus already in place. The biggest hurdle for Davis appears to be how voters will view his resume. In the past few cycles, St. Tammany voters, on a wave of anti-establishment sentiment, have rejected the parish’s longtime assessor, sheriff and district attorney. There’s also the question of whether Davis’ connection to Jindal serves as a drag or a boost.

Cromer, who is term limited, considers mayor of Slidell to be his "dream job," and he perviously served on the City Council. While Davis probably has stronger name recognition, local politicos contend Cromer has been surging recently. Cromer will most likely need to turn out voters in his legislative district, which is located in the city’s northern side.

Term-limited City Councilman Landon Cusimano is on the ballot too. He’s looking to parlay his nearly 20 years on the council into the city’s top job. Cusimano’s largest asset may be his very large and politically-active family. They’re seasoned veterans of many St. Tammany races.

Rounding out the field is Bruce Clement, the former chief operating officer of Slidell Memorial Hospital. A political novice, Clement has embraced an outsider image. He has been attacking his three opponents as "career politicians," and has pledged to run the city in a more businesslike manner.

Sources say that while Davis has been polling strong, his numbers may be slipping somewhat, and that the race is a close contest. Davis and Cromer, both Republicans, have also begun to actively court Slidell’s growing African-American population. It could be a factor to watch.

Aside from Clement’s attacks, the campaigns have stayed mostly clean and positive. Forums have been orderly and complimentary, and the candidates have even participated in good-natured events, like an ice cream eating competition. Sources, however, do not expect the goodwill to extend into the runoff.

Davis has been endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government and the Greater New Orleans PAC, while Cromer has won the support of St. Tammany’s Republican Executive Committee. The Times-Pic is set to make an endorsement next week.

Other Mayoral Contests

— Longtime West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris appears to be in the fight of his political life, facing three challengers after winning nine elections unopposed. Norris had perviously said he would retire this cycle, but later decided to seek re-election in December.

— Rep. Mike Danahay is running against two-term incumbent Chris Duncan for Sulfur’s top gig, and observers around the Capitol will be keeping a watch on this race to see if yet another legislative special election is necessary.

— Winnsboro Mayor Jackie Johnson is retiring after two terms. Five candidates are competing to fill the open seat, including a former city councilman, a parish assistant district attorney and Johnson’s executive secretary.

— Mayor Ron Roberts of DeRidder is retiring. Police Juror Mike Harper and Misty Clanton, the city’s community service director, are vying to replace him.

— City Councilman Eugene Foulcard and former Councilman Jimmie Daniel II are facing off to succeed Mayor Raymond Harris in Franklin.

— In Oak Grove, Adam Holland, the son of former Mayor Jim Holland, is facing off against City Councilman Jerry Waters for his father’s old seat.

— Mayor Ben Zahn of Kenner is expected to win election to a full term. Zahn has been filling the remaining two years of Mike Yenni’s term since Yenni was elected Jefferson Parish president in 2015.

— Four candidates are vying to succeed Mayor Kiah Beville in Winnfield.

— Mayors Thomas Nelson of St. Martinville, Mark Piazza of Abbeville, Kirk Patrick Champagne of Kaplan, Rick Allen of Leesville and Freddie Boswell of New Llano are all expected to win re-election against minor opposition.

This story was originally published in LaPOLITICS Weekly on March 8, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

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