WEEKLY: Players Who Could Be Mayors

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on August 16, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!


The 2018 municipal cycle may be defined

by open seats, ex-felons & endangered incumbents

It’s not unusual to see the residents of a Louisiana city or town bidding farewell to a longtime, influential mayor. There’s normally one such instance each election cycle, like Randy Roach detaching from the public rolls in Lake Charles, Kip Holden floating away from Baton Rouge’s top office or Mitch Landrieu’s plunge into national politics.

But four notable mayors creating politically-important, partly-unexpected vacancies, all in the same the year? That remarkable designation leads off this summary of the current municipal election cycle, but it doesn’t provide a full picture of the changing face of Louisiana’s mayoral landscape.

Just consider the following factors:

  • The four elections mentioned above, in Alexandria, Broussard, Crowley and Minden, are important. But the number of open mayoral seats statewide this cycle grows from there when other vacancies in smaller communities, like Springhill and Sterlington, to name a couple, are added to the mix.
  • Similarly, the turnover rate increases with the addition of mid-term resignations. For example, the interim mayors in Eunice and New Roads are among those seeking their first full terms this fall.
  • There are half dozen or so first-term mayors on ballots (not interim mayors) this cycle. Their presence further shows the scope of the newbie wave that’s sweeping the Bayou State’s mayoral ranks.
  • This is the fullest municipal election cycle since the Louisiana Supreme Court cemented the right of convicted felons to run for office. As such, there three mayoral elections hosting ex-felons who are also ex-mayors. You’ll learn more about them below.

The races are being watched with general interest over at the Louisiana Municipal Association, where executive director John Gallagher and his staff are preparing for yet another transition in membership. These local-level elections normally fail to energize the masses, but LMA’s human resources have been observing them from a distance and then working with their winners — the association’s true focus — since 1926.

“There seems to be slightly more incumbent mayors deciding not to run this cycle,” said Gallagher, adding that the broader trend involves the shrinking durations of service posted by municipal leaders. “Just at LMA we’re losing two past presidents. So we’ve been focused on improving the services we provide to incoming mayors, and we’re looking to expand it into our online platforms.”

With LMA covering the public service and administrative side of its members’ needs, LaPolitics zeroed in on the elections side for this story. We cut through the noise, set aside the stinkers, identified the cycle’s chief assets and probably missed a couple interesting matchups in the process. (If so, let us know by sending a note to news@LaPolitics.com.)

Here are your most important takeaways, as seen from the air:

  • Statewide, there were 10 mayors elected or re-elected during last month’s qualifying process. In other words, they were the lone qualifiers. Lucky, lucky them.
  • Putting aside the snoozers and unassuming races, LaPolitics has flagged 15 competitive elections for its mayoral watchlist. All but three are taking place in south Louisiana.
  • The races to watch are not entirely located in tiny towns. Two will determine the future paths of major metro areas (Shreveport and Alexandria).

The Big One

In Shreveport, the race to replace the city’s first black woman mayor has reached an early boiling point. As unpredictable as she is controversial, Mayor Ollie Tyler is seeking re-election with nine opponents and no promises of a repeat of 2014.

If you’re just tuning into this election, then you’re late to the show. Very late. With signs planted around the city, commercials airing on television and public forums actually generating interest from reporters and voters, this mayoral race has quickly become one of Louisiana’s hottest elections — municipal or not.

Residents of the Red River city should have known this was going to get weird. Last go around, voters were subjected to the details of Tyler’s involvement in her husband’s shooting death. They were pummeled with uncomfortable information about a challenger’s mental state and another candidate added mud to the Red’s political waters when he was accused of double billing legislative-related expenses.

That, in short order, was how Shreveport voters skated through an unforgettable and painful election cycle; kicked a mental ollie to sail over the drama; and end up with their own political Ollie in office. She’s facing questions about the overcollection of taxes and a new lawsuit and her management style and much more. “If something has been done wrong,” Tyler said during a recent candidate forum, “we’ll do the audit when I'm re-elected.”

Of the nine challengers, there are possible watch-me bids coming together for Caddo Parish Commissioner Steven Jackson; Jim Taliaferro, the former executive director of Shreveport Crime Stoppers; and Lee Savage, a prominent local businessman.

The election, however, took an unexpected, ugly turn this week when Jackson allegedly became the subject of racially-charged death threats. Here’s the lede from The Times’ coverage: “The FBI and Louisiana State Police are investigating a Shreveport mayoral candidate's claims that he was anonymously threatened with lynching if he did not drop out of the race, a state police spokesman said Thursday.”

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on August 16, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

The Historic One

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy surprised politicos across the state recently when he announced he wouldn’t seek a fourth term this fall. Roy, who had been fundraising and polling, is said to be exploring a possible statewide run in 2019.

Three candidates have qualified to fill the open seat, including Rep. Jeff Hall, who finished second to Roy in 2014. Hall has a ready-made fundraising base in Baton Rouge, a tested campaign structure and the added motivation of wanting to exit the Legislature, whose members have been fleeing this term in the face of unprecedented pressure and uncertainty.

Hall’s profile is the largest, from the perspective of Capitoland, but keep watch on Kay Michiels, Roy’s former chief operating officer. She has qualified for the race alongside attorney Catherine Davidson.

LaPolitics will have additional reporting on this contest in an upcoming issue, but the end-of-the-day headline is halfway written already. Regardless of who’s successful in November, Alexandria will elect either its first minority mayor or its first female mayor.

The Ones With Ex-Felons

The courts and the Louisiana Legislature had a little back and forth for a while over the issue of felons running for elected office. In the end, the courts won — and so did ex-felons, who were eager during last month’s qualifying period to take advantage of the ruling. We’ll get to watch the aftermath this fall, which is hosting the largest slate of municipal elections assembled since the Supremes weighed in on the matter a couple years ago. The trailblazers include the following…

  • Former Ball Mayor Roy Hebron wants his old job back. But first he’ll have to respond to questions about why he took the rap for FEMA fraud in 2011.
  • Former Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson is crafting a comeback story, too. Hers may or may not include a chapter on how the former mayor was found guilty in 2013 (falsely accused, she claims) of directing city benefits to people who weren’t supposed to receive them.
  • Likewise running for redemption is former Waterproof Mayor Bobby Higginbotham, who was personally arrested by the Tenses Parish Sheriff in 2007 for “impersonating a police officer, criminal trespass and felony criminal damage to property.” Later, he was also convicted on a number of counts related to his use of the town credit card.

The Ones That Are Over

Elected or re-elected following the qualifying process were Mayors Darla Istre of Mermentau, Don Popp of Esterwood, Johnny Thibodaux of Duson, Wayland Lafague of Kinder, Carroll Snyder of Krotz Springs, Kevin Colligan of Cankton, Tony Lamonte of Tickfaw, Patrick St. Pierre of Lutcher, Clarence Bebee of Hornbeck and Robert Maples of Ridgecrest.

The Other Ones

The rest of the best from LaPolitics’ mayoral watchlist has a little bit of everything.

There are a couple of contests where former mayors are taking on current mayors. Some of the fields are populated entirely with first-time candidates. There’s one race that has an incumbent who was recently indicted and another with an interim mayor who’s running for a full term because his predecessor became the target of a criminal probe. More independents are showing up to qualify, council-type jobs remain a natural stepping stone, challengers are unusually eager and more than a few of the matches could be tight.

The following breakdown also makes reference to a frog. See if you can find it…

  • In Minden, first-time candidates Terry Gardner and Winky Newer are vying to succeed retiring Mayor Tommy Davis.
  • In Eunice, incumbent Scott Fontenot is seeking election to a full term as mayor after succeeding the late Rusty Moody in 2016. Fontenot, an independent, is being challenged by Democrat Tim Smith.
  • Six candidates have qualified to challenge Opelousas Mayor Reggie Tatum’s second-term. Two of the candidates, Councilmen Julius Alsandor and Tyrone Glover, have often publicly feuded with the controversial mayor. Tatum, who was indicted in 2017 on 15 criminal charges by a St. Landry Parish grand jury, is awaiting trial.   
  • In Broussard, Mayor Charles Langlinais is retiring after seven terms in office. Councilman Ray Borque and another candidate, J.P. Morgan, are vying to succeed him.
  • Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux will be facing one of his predecessors on the fall ballot. Tommy Angelle, who was the city’s mayor from 1978 to 2003, is looking to reclaim his old job. Charolette Stemmans Clavier, a former councilwoman and mayor pro-tem, also qualified.
  • In Crowley, Greg Jones, the incumbent mayor, is stepping down after three terms in office. Five candidates, including four of the city’s current aldermen, are running for the top spot in city hall.
  • In Rayne, GOP Mayor Chuck Robichaux is seeking a second term in the “Frog Capital.” His challengers are Democrat Brian Mouton and independent Morris Montgomery.
  • Church Point Mayor Russell Stelly has drawn three challengers, most notably Alderman Gene Malbrough.
  • New Roads Mayor Anthony Daisy is seeking a full term after coming into office upon the resignation of his predecessor, the target of a 2017 criminal probe. He is being challenged by local activist Cornell Dukes.
  • In Hammond, Mayor Pete Panepinto is seeking his second term. Two first-time candidates are looking to unseat him.
  • Bogalusa Mayor Wendy O’Quin-Perrette will be in a tight re-election race. City Councilmen Brian McCree and Doug Ritchie will join former Mayor Mack McGehee and attorney Tina Ratliff on the ballot
  • Four candidates are looking to unseat Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons in his second-term bid. The challengers include Alderman Dan Curtis, who’s backed by Alliance for Good Government, and John Preble, the noted local artist and founder of the town’s eccentric UCM museum.
  • Harahan Mayor Tina Miceli will be up against longtime City Councilman Tim Baudier.

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on August 16, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

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