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."
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
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.
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.