In contrast to south Lafayette, you won't see too many yard signs in Maurice for either Don Trahan or Nancy Landry ' the two candidates vying for state representative of District 31 which stretches from Lafayette into northern Vermilion Parish. With both Trahan and Landry having strong family ties in the tight-knit Cajun community, where who's going to "make some votes" is typically a hot topic, many Maurice locals are mum on who they favor in the race.
"People are keeping it close to the vest," says Gary Villien, a member of the local board of aldermen who declines to say who he supports in the race. "Both [of the candidates] have ties to the village," he adds. "I'm curious to find out how it's going to be. I'm curious to see if Don Trahan will still have the ties that got him elected last time ' if he will maintain that level [of support] or if Nancy's going to make an impact."
Despite making up only about 20 percent of the district's overall voting population, the area of north Vermilion Parish promises to play a key role in the District 31 race. Trahan, a Maurice native, is counting on having the same strong support from his home base that won him the election in 2003. In that race, Trahan edged out Lafayette Republican Charlie Buckels by 13 votes in a runoff election. Buckels carried Lafayette Parish by more than 1,200 votes but captured only 30 percent of the vote in Vermilion Parish.
Four years later, Trahan once again finds himself in a heated contest. He's been greatly outspent and, by most accounts, outworked by political newcomer Nancy Landry, who has been actively raising money for a year and walking door to door throughout the district for almost four months. "I've knocked on almost 6,000 doors," she says.
She launched her first TV ads in March. Her message has largely centered around her bio as an award-winning family law counselor and a proponent for sweeping ethics reform in the state Legislature. Landry is a divorced single mother with two sons ' a rarity in politics ' and has used that experience to reach out to other people. "It's made me a stronger person," she says. "I've always tried to use the experiences I've had to help other people. Everybody's had their family troubles and personal difficulties. I think what sets people apart is how you handle it and what you do with that experience. Do you help other people with it or do you brush it under the rug?"
Last week, Landry's campaign put out a press release saying she is now in the lead with under a month to go in the election. According to a poll her campaign commissioned from Southern Media & Opinion Research out of Baton Rouge, Landry has surged passed the incumbent. The poll shows 38 percent of voters favoring Landry, compared to 30 percent for Trahan, and 32 percent undecided. "I've been working really hard for a year now," Landry says. "I think the feedback we got from the poll shows that the message we've been trying to get out is reaching the people, and they're responding."
Trahan, who just began launching ads and getting his campaign signs out last week, dismisses Landry's poll. He says he's seen other polls that show him in the lead and thinks he'll have a bigger edge once most of the undecided voters look at his record and experience. "Nancy's outspent me three to one," Trahan says. "And I haven't started my campaign yet. When I get my message out, it's going to be all the difference."
The most recent campaign finance reports show that, as of Sept. 10, Landry had raised a total of $125,410, with $47,800 left in the bank. At press time, Trahan's latest finance report was not yet available, but the incumbent says he plans to raise and spend approximately $70,000 throughout the course of the campaign ' roughly the same amount he spent in his last race. Trahan plans on largely utilizing direct mail and radio ads, noting TV is not as personable. Trahan's last campaign finance report, filed in January, also shows his affinity for another old school campaign tactic. According to the report, Trahan spent approximately $320 in campaign funds on "gifts" from cigar shops. "That's a common practice," he says, noting he likes to hand out the stogies at fund-raisers and other political events. "Instead of buying drinks, I buy cigars."
Trahan's main message to voters is that he's the candidate with the most experience. In addition to his one term in the state House, Trahan has a long track record of government involvement. Under former Lafayette Mayor Kenny Bowen, Trahan served as director of Lafayette's Community Development department, Planning Zoning & Codes, and as interim chief administrative officer. Trahan also served as a former legislative assistant to the late Cecil Picard and also boasts of his ties to the current Republican leadership in the state Legislature. He expects the Republican Party to take over a majority of the state House in this election and notes he will be in line for a leadership position.
"I will be a [committee] chairman," Trahan says. "I will be the only returning experienced Republican in the House of Representatives for Lafayette and Vermilion parishes. They need that experience."
Trahan also notes that Republican officials are supporting him; he's banking on campaign assistance from both the state party and the Committee to Elect a Republican Majority. In addition, Trahan has been endorsed by both the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Louisiana Association of Educators. "Don really has done a yeoman's work on the education committee," notes Lafayette High English teacher Melinda Mangham, who serves as the LAE's state legislative liaison.
On the issues, there appears to be little difference between Trahan and Landry. Both are touting their endorsement of the Blueprint Louisiana agenda ' and its ethics reform package ' as well as expanding Pre-K education and dedicating more tax revenue directly to infrastructure needs. Landry, a registered independent, has largely been selling herself as a conservative who can work across the aisles with both parties. She has the support of several prominent Republican donors ' including River Ranch developer Robert Daigle, insurance mogul Dwight Andrus III and Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs. Landry also frequently plugs her support for Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Bobby Jindal.
Not wanting to repeat Buckels' results in Vermilion Parish, Landry has made an aggressive push to garner support there, which could ultimately prove just how many inroads she's been able to make. Landry has been making the rounds across the parish for months, often being introduced to people by her cousin, Barbara Landry Picard, who served as the mayor of Maurice for 24 years. Landry also held her campaign kickoff at Floyd Sonnier Gallery in Scott ' where the artist featured a drawing he made of the Landry family's old Vermilion Parish homestead.
The Trahans are also a well-known Vermilion Parish family. Don's father was the Maurice postmaster, and his uncle served as the town's only doctor and mayor for years. The Trahan family also owns and operates the world famous City Bar. The current mayor of Maurice, Picard's successor, is Bob Ferguson, Don's cousin.
With his history in the area, Trahan insists Landry cannot compete with him in Vermilion or elsewhere in the district. "The key is I now have a record," he says. "And the Republican conservative portion of my district knows I have a record and they like my record. The people in Scott like my service to them. The people in Milton like my service to them. They consider me one of their own. Nancy Landry is not considered one of their own.
"Vermilion Parish will vote for me in the same numbers they did last time if not greater numbers," he adds.
But Barbara Landry Picard contends that's not necessarily the case. "Some of the families that I know will vote Nancy, but they're not saying," she maintains. "And I can't blame them. I know [the Trahans] well. They're all friends. It makes it difficult. So we kind of keep it quiet."
"I think Nancy will do well," she adds. "I'm finding cousins I never knew I had."
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Critic says Sharknado 2 even better; North Korea offers summer camp; Russia accused of nuclear violations and more national and international news for Tuesday, July 29, 2014.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.