LAFAYETTE — State Rep. Simone Champagne will be joining the staff of Youngsville’s new mayor in less than a month, forgoing the last year of her second term and forcing a special election before the Legislature convenes in April.
Champagne, a Republican from Jeanerette who in late 2013 purchased a home in Youngsville, will serve her last day as House District 49 representative on Dec. 31. She’ll become Youngsville Mayor-elect Ken Ritter’s chief administrative officer on Jan. 1.
Champagne served as CAO in Iberia Parish government from 2003 until 2007 before serving her first year in the Legislature in 2008.
Champagne, 59, announced two years ago that she would not seek a third term, giving others time to ponder and plan a run at the seat in the 2015 fall elections.
Champagne said Thursday she had not planned to resign with a year left to her second term. She said her husband was contemplating retirement and that they were attracted to living in Youngsville.
“I’m going to miss state government,” Champagne said. “… I enjoyed the process and, of course, the camaraderie you have and the new friends you make. But I’m going to really enjoy working in Youngsville city government.”
Champagne was elected as a Democrat without opposition in 2007, switching her party affiliation in 2010 to Republican. She currently is vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.
House District 49 covers parts of Iberia and Vermilion parishes.
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley set the primary election for Feb. 21. A runoff, if necessary, will be March 28. Candidate qualifying will run Jan. 9-7.
Ritter said Thursday he started talking to Champagne about joining his staff after he became mayor-elect in August, when he was the only candidate to qualify to fill the job. He’s replacing retiring Mayor Wilson Viator, who served three terms.
“I believe she’s uniquely qualified not only because of her legislative experience but also because she understands the inner workings of government,” Ritter said, a reference to Champagne’s tenure as Iberia Parish chief administrative officer.
“There’s been a significant amount of growth in Youngsville,” said Ritter, 37. “I’m really taking this opportunity to structure the core group at City Hall.”
Champagne’s resignation announcement was quickly followed Thursday by an announcement from New Iberia attorney Blake Miguez, a Republican, that he would be a candidate in the District 49 special election.
Attempts Thursday to contact Miguez for comment were unsuccessful, but his announcement stated he was planning to run for the seat in the regular election slated for fall 2015, according to KATC-TV. Miguez said he already had a bank account with campaign contributions totaling $60,000.
Miguez, 33, runs a marine transportation business that is owned by his family, according to his Facebook page. The page on the social media site also states he’s an attorney, a constitutional scholar and a philanthropist who is an expert marksman with a handgun.
“I’m blessed to have such a strong outpouring of support and encouragement, and should have strong momentum heading into the special election,” Miguez said in the news release.
Advocate Capitol bureau senior reporter Marsha Shuler contributed to this report.