Voters in Jefferson Parish go to the polls Saturday (Oct. 20) to elect a parish president and three members of the Parish Council. Voters in parts of Metairie also will fill a state district judgeship. Overall, this has been a quiet election season in Jefferson Parish.
The Jefferson sheriff's race has been postponed because of the death of Sheriff Harry Lee on Oct. 1. The primary for sheriff will now be held on Nov. 17, the same day as runoffs from this Saturday's primary, if any are needed.
Here's a look at the major races on the ballot this Saturday in Jefferson Parish. Parish President In the last two years, Jefferson Parish President Aaron F. Broussard has survived angry calls for his resignation, a recall movement, a grilling on Meet the Press and Hurricane Katrina itself. Broussard, a Kenner Democrat who has served in local government for more than three decades, faces two upset-minded opponents hoping to revive voter resentment over 'Broussard's Flood." They are Bruce Kincade, I-Metairie, and businessman Allen Leone, R-Metairie.
Broussard (www.aaronbroussard.com) touts his experience as his primary campaign asset. He began his public career with an election to the parish School Board in 1974. He was later elected to the Parish Council (1977-82) and then mayor of Kenner (1982-95). He was elected council chairman in 1995 and served two terms. In 2003, he won the job of parish president, crushing a Republican opponent by a 78-22 percent margin.
If re-elected, Broussard says his top priority will be the parish's new 100-year hurricane protection plan as well as flood, drainage and coastal erosion projects for Jefferson Parish, which is approximately 60 percent marshland. 'We can't afford training on the job," Broussard says. 'This is the most critical time in our history."
Leone, owner of a Keller Williams Realty franchise, ran for Secretary of State last year, finishing sixth out of seven candidates with 2 percent of the vote. Leone's campaign for parish president appeared to pick up steam with the endorsement of the Jefferson chapter of the Alliance for Good Government.
If elected, Leone (www.leone.myhosting.net) promises immediate action on his top priority: flood protection. 'I will not let history repeat itself," he says. He also pledges to use his knowledge of the insurance industry to resolve the insurance crisis. He promises to work with government agencies to reduce crime, raise educational standards, create business incentives, and provide funding to prevent animal cruelty and increase adoptions of pets. 'As Jefferson Parish president, I will take action rather than make promises," he says.
Kincade, an attorney who ran for the Legislature from House District 81 in 1999, is running to 'secure our borders" " meaning improved levee protection and coastal restoration. He has maintained a modest television presence since qualifying, using 30-second ads, but he has not kept pace with Broussard or Leone. Council At-Large, Division A Since the widely publicized withdrawal of his son, John Young III, from this race, incumbent John F. Young Jr.'s only opponent is fellow Republican Felix Solis of Kenner. Young, an attorney and former prosecutor who won the at-large seat in 2003, is running on a record of parish progress and post-Katrina economic growth. He cites the widening of the Huey P. Long Bridge, construction of a future technology park and the Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center as measures of his success.
'Jefferson Parish is on the cusp of a renaissance," Young says. 'We have to help bring the New Orleans area back, but we're not the city's "little brother' anymore. We're an equal partner." Young amassed a campaign war chest of more than $600,000 as of mid-September and is often mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal's congressional seat should Jindal win the governor's race. His endorsements in this contest include the Alliance for Good Government and the Louisiana Republican Party.
Solis, an electronics technician and Army veteran, candidly admits he got into the race because he thought Young was running for another office. He adds that he will stay in because he's 'not a quitter." He advocates developing the parish workforce and keeping local jobs in the hands of local workers. Council At-Large, Division B Republican incumbent Tom Capella, current chair of the Parish Council, faces only one opponent, Democrat Fred Matthew.
Capella says crime is the No. 1 issue in Jefferson. He supports strong law enforcement and 'regular sweeps of problem neighborhoods" by code enforcement teams. He also favors environmental court action to crack down on slumlords and blight. On drainage issues, Capella pledges to keep the heat on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, secure hurricane 'safe houses" for pump workers and support construction of retention ponds to keep water from flooding neighborhoods. He says traffic woes stem from construction that 'will soon make it much easier to navigate the parish."
His endorsements include the Alliance for Good Government and the Louisiana Republican Party.
Matthew, a geologist and president of IHS Construction LLC, lost bids for a district council seat in 2003 and for parish constable in 1975. He has served on the parish Council on Aging, Jeff 20/20, and he is active in evangelical ministries for children, the homeless and the elderly.
Matthew says stronger levees and coastal restoration are his top priorities. He also would provide safe havens for elderly residents who are too ill or too frail to evacuate during hurricanes. Council District 2 Republican incumbent Elton Lagasse, R-River Ridge, is the only district incumbent on the council to face opposition on Saturday's ballot. Lagasse has two opponents, both of whom reside in Marrero on the West Bank: Democrat Michael A. McClendon and Independent C.A. 'Rod" Rodriguez Sr. The district stretches from River Ridge to the Orleans Parish line on the East Bank, and from Avondale to the Gretna-Harvey line on the West Bank.
A retired superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public Schools, Lagasse says crime and flood protection are his top priorities. He also wants to expand the presence of the film industry in Harahan. He has been criticized for persuading the rest of the council (except John Young) to approve a video poker truck stop near a Marrero residential neighborhood in 2004. He is endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government and the Republican Party.
McClendon, a sergeant in the Army Reserves and a West Bank snowball stand operator, is making his first run for public office. His top priorities are a better educated workforce, crime and developing infrastructure.
A perennial candidate, Rodriguez ran for a council at-Large seat in 2003 (won by Young). He wants to reduce traffic headaches and fill parish wetlands with sand to protect residents from hurricanes.
District Judge Three Metairie Republicans are vying for the 24th Judicial District Court Division 'L" seat vacated by the retirement of Judge 'Chuck" Cusimano, who is now a justice of the peace.
Competing for the judgeship are Michael Delesdernier (www.mikeforjudge.com), Donald 'Donnie" Rowan Jr. and Deborah Villio (www.villioforjudge.com). Delesdernier has 22 years of legal experience, including corporate litigation and civil rights cases in state and federal courts.
Villio, a practicing attorney for 18 years (including 10 years as state prosecutor), resigned as director of the parish Community Justice Agency to make the race. Rowan is a veteran prosecutor for both Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick and former Orleans DA Harry Connick. He claims to have tried more than 500 jury trials, including violent offenses. Re-Elected The following Jefferson Parish incumbents were re-elected without opposition:
Chris Roberts, D-Harvey, Council District 1.
Byron Lee, D-Marrero, Council District 3.
Louis J. Congemi, R-Kenner, Council District 4.
Jennifer Sneed, R-Metairie, Council District 5.
Lawrence E. Chehardy, R-River Ridge, Assessor.
Jon Gegenheimer, R-Gretna, Clerk of Court.
Robert E. Treuting, D-Metairie, Coroner.