The same held true for Bruce Conque, who began earnestly walking the streets of District 6 in July. "By the time the election was held I had visited almost every home at least twice," Conque says. "I was coming from out of nowhere. Everyone assumed that the incumbent was well situated and was going to win." The incumbent he defeated, Jerry Trumps, was the sitting chairman on the council. Conque, a former broadcaster who now owns his own marketing business, says he never positioned himself as an underdog. "I just took the attitude I wasn't running against the incumbent," says Conque, who never mentioned Trumps' name while campaigning. Conque defeated Trumps by just under 150 votes. "It was a very studied effort in bringing my name forward," he says, "and making a positive impression to the public that I'm involved, I'm there, and ready to serve. And I think that paid off. That was my whole tact: promote Bruce. And I'm going to do the same this time."
This time, however, both Conque and Bourgeois are on the inside looking out. They face a group of energetic challengers, all armed with hot-button issues, who hope to pull off similar upset victories. Conque and Bourgeois are the only sitting councilmen seeking re-election. Three others, Marc Mouton, Bobby Badeaux and Rob Stevenson, have decided not to run again, and the remaining four are term-limited.
In District 2, Republican Bourgeois faces off against two Democrats: Jay Castille, a retired firefighter and land developer, and Patrick Lewis, who works as the operations coordinator for the Lafayette Parish School System's transportation department. Conque, a registered independent, also has two opponents in his district: Democrat Sam DorÃ©, a 46-year-old Boy Scout leader and salesman at Wingfoot/Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems, and registered independent Travis Farrar, a 32-year-old computer network specialist who also works as a customer service representative at the Cingular Wireless call center.
Being an incumbent councilman up for re-election can be a double-edged sword, especially in light of the turmoil that tarnished the council's reputation in the past two years. Strained relations among council members reached an all-time high last year with the Martin Luther King Memorial Drive issue and south side versus north side road funding. "I think [the incumbents] have a problem," says Denice Skinner of the Lafayette Parish Republican Party. "I think the sentiment on the street is just to throw it all out and start over again. People are upset with the way this council, as a whole, has treated the community with the bickering and the disrespect."
"I see some of that working against me," Bourgeois says. "But I really try not to be a part of that. Even though we had turmoil on the council, the citizens' business was still done. It's a shame there was a lot of confrontation and bickering on the council. I know it may sound funny, but on the whole, things could have been a lot worse. Cooler heads often did prevail with the conflicts we had."
In District 6, DorÃ© has adopted the mantra of "bringing unity back to the council" as his signature issue. "If the council can't work with each other," he asks, "then how are people going to be able to work with the council?" In his effort to unseat Conque, DorÃ© has enlisted the support of Lane Cortez, younger brother to District 43 state Rep. candidate Page Cortez. Conque's other opponent, Farrar, is mounting his campaign on economic development issues, as well as raising questions about Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home project, an initiative he opposed.
Another major issue arising in all council district elections is the state of the city's police and fire departments. Both departments have undergone staff shortages in recent years and struggled with recruitment. In addition, an ongoing multi-million dollar lawsuit involving police and fire department back pay has further fueled a perception that the city should do more for its men in uniform.
Castille, a retired firefighter who stands to be one of the beneficiaries of any type of settlement agreement with city-parish government on the back pay lawsuit, has championed the fire and police departments throughout his campaign, which kicked off in March. Castille is a former president of the Lafayette Firefighters union, and his brother, Terry, is its current vice-president. "The police and fire departments are down to skeleton crews," Castille says. "That's uncalled for."
Bourgeois and Conque point out that the city only temporarily shut down some fire stations due to worker shortage and renovation issues. They also say the shortfall of police officers has been an ongoing dilemma for the city, but that the council has allocated money in the budget to fully staff the department. In addition, they note the city has recently used its spike in sales tax revenue to replace a majority of the police department's aging patrol cars.
Conque says that the advantage and disadvantage of being an incumbent is having a record to run on. He and Bourgeois are both touting their achievements, which include the fiber initiative and reforms passed in 2005 to reign in the council's travel and dining expenses. "If I haven't done the job in the last three and a half years, then I don't deserve to be on the council," Conque says. "That's the bottom line."
Bourgeois and Conque also highlight their knowledge and familiarity with the inner workings of city-parish government. With a guaranteed turnover of more than two-thirds of council members, Conque is betting that experience should play a big factor in this election. "Continuity and experience is a big issue," he says. "It's not an easy system to absorb in a short amount of time. Here I am three and a half years into the term, and I'm the first to tell you I'm still learning how everything gets done. Every day you learn a new need and how to address it."
"You have to have some history," Conque adds, "someone to whom you can turn and say, 'What about this?'"
The incumbents are banking on their experience and their reputations with constituents to carry them. Both know all too well how an election can turn in favor of the newcomer. "I'm in a full blown campaign," says Conque, who is planning two mass mailers to voters. "I'm not holding back. You can't take anything for granted."
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.