TIME TO TAKE THE GLOVES OFF
Or, in the case of Lafayette’s most colorful and quotable state representative, to put them on
By Walter Pierce
Photos by Robin May
This being a year in which statewide offices are chosen and constitutional amendments as well as two local and very important propositions are decided, the Oct. 22 ballot before voters will be a long one. But that doesn’t mean political junkies will get their fix.
A sliver of voters in north Lafayette can anticipate a good, old-fashioned brawl in the races for Senate District 24 and House District 44. In the former, incumbent Sen. Elbert Guillory goes against Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins, who held the Senate seat previously and whose wife Patricia was defeated by Guillory two and a half years ago in a special election. In the latter, incumbent Rep. Rickey Hardy is up against Vincent Pierre, whose uncle, Wilfred, previously held the seat and who for most intents and purposes represents the old-school black political establishment in Lafayette that Hardy defeated four years ago.
THE UNCHALLENGED: City-Parish Councilmen Jay Castille and Kenneth Boudreaux, above, along with state Sen.-elect Page Cortez, Rep. Nancy Landry and Rep.-elect Stuart Bishop have an easy path to victory on Oct. 22: no opponents.
So far, so good. But for many in Lafayette Parish, the political gods didn’t exactly crank the excitement knob.
Working your way top to bottom among candidates, in fact, there will be several races — both statewide posts and within the parish — that won’t be on the ballot at all because only one candidate, typically the incumbent, is the only person to qualify for the race. And as the trend of Lafayette Parish becoming more conservative continues, this lack of competition could become the norm rather than the exception.
“I think that the districts that are drawn are more ideologically consistent than ever,” says Pearson Cross, a UL Lafayette political science professor. “We just went through a redistricting process, which has something to do with it. The second thing that has to do with it is Republicans are becoming so much more homogenous in terms of being conservatives... As a result, there’s no real sense in running against someone who feels the same way you do about most issues, unless it’s strictly about wanting the position.”
Working our way down the list of 37 statewide, parishwide and local seats up for grabs in Lafayette Parish on Oct. 22, there are 12 seats for which no election will be held because only one candidate qualified. That’s nearly a third.
State Treasurer John Kennedy can fold his wallet — he’s in without a fight. So too are state Sens. Fred Mills and Jonathan Perry, state Reps. Nancy Landry and Taylor Barras, Tax Assessor Conrad Comeaux, Clerk of Court Louis Perret, Coroner Kenneth Odinet and councilmen Kenneth Boudreaux and Jay Castille. State Rep. Page Cortez, meanwhile, gets to slide over to the Senate without a competitor while political rookie Stuart Bishop walks into Cortez’s House seat unscathed.
“Term limits now make it more likely that with these legislative seats people will wait until there’s an open seat,” adds Cross. “So people who want to run are saying, ‘Well, I’ll hang out a little bit and maybe have an open seat or a special election or won’t have to run against an incumbent.’”