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 Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.