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."
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."
For the sixth consecutive year, Andy Nyman, LSU associate professor of wetland wildlife management, and his service-learning students plan to spend spring break differently from those students flooding the beaches of Florida.