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."
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, March 06, 2014:
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)
Can state lawmakers find the nerve — and the votes — to neuter payday lenders?
A calm demeanor has served Gerald Boudreaux well — in his career, passion for sports and in life. And it could be just what his district needs in the state Senate.
Acadiana Catholics* react to Francis
The circumstances surrounding the Jan. 26 fire of the 18,000-square-foot home on Verot School Road seemed strange, but what's even more bizarre is the back-story behind owner Ralph Wadleigh.
Choice cuts from Acadiana's news media for Friday, Feb. 28, 2014: