State Rep. Joel Robideaux defeated longtime Lafayette City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley Saturday in a heated race for city-parish president.
Robideaux took the seat with 56 percent of the vote in the face of a challenger who had the endorsement of City-Parish President Joey Durel. The win could bring major personnel shifts in an administration closely aligned with a vision Durel nurtured during his 12 years in office.
Robideaux said Saturday night that Stanley has already agreed to meet him next week to discuss the transition.
“Everybody wants what’s best for Lafayette,” Robideaux said.
He said he plans to take a few days off with his family, “and then we are going to hit the ground running.”
The campaign was in many respects a referendum on Durel’s leadership.
Robideaux often talked of the need to repair the damaged relationships between the city-parish president’s office, the City-Parish Council and the other leaders of the smaller cities in the parish.
Stanley had acknowledged some battles in recent years, but nothing out of the ordinary in politics.
He, in turn, worked to link Robideaux, a prominent legislator, to the state’s budget woes.
“I think it’s smoke and mirrors that somebody who has been joined to Bobby Jindal for eight years and what he has done fiscally is going to be critical of Joey Durel and the job he has done in the parish,” Stanley said in a prior interview.
Both came to the campaign with a solid background in government.
Robideaux, a certified public accountant, represented House District 45 in the state Legislature, where he has served as chairman of House Ways and Means Committee and chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Outlay.
Stanley, in his job as CAO, has been responsible for the nuts-and-bolts work of managing city-parish government for the past 12 years, and he had prior experience as Lafayette City Clerk before the city of Lafayette and Lafayette Parish governments consolidated in 1996.
Before becoming CAO, he worked as news director for KLFY-TV, and he is married to KLFY news anchor Blue Rolfes.
In many respects, the candidates are similar.
Both are married. Both are Republican. They each have three children.
Stanley is 55. Robideaux is 53.
Their respective stances should surprise no one in Lafayette, because the candidates have turned down few opportunities to face off in forums and debates in recent weeks.
They seem to agree on many of the big-picture issues.
Stanley and Robideaux both have said the constitution-like city-parish charter should be tweaked to give more autonomy to the city of Lafayette.
The once-separate governments for Lafayette Parish and the city of Lafayette merged in 1996, but there have been complaints for several years that council members with larger rural constituencies have too much say over city-specific issues, such as oversight of the city-owned utility system and the budgets for the city’s police and fire departments.
Both men have also talked of the need to find more money to pay for needed infrastructure in rural areas of the parish, but they have laid out different approaches.
Tax revenue has not kept pace with needs in rural areas of the parish, where there is no full-time fire protection, no dedicated money for parks, and little money to maintain existing roads or build any new ones.
Robideaux has downplayed the need for any new tax revenue, saying he would look to the state Legislature for the money to improve rural infrastructure.
Stanley characterized that approach as unrealistic, considering the financial woes of the state, and has said needed work might never get done without more revenue, possibly from taxes, tolls or user fees that are temporary and tied to specific projects.
What has perhaps been most noticeable is that there has been a campaign at all, because residents have not seen a heated race since Durel was first elected 12 years ago.
Durel, who is barred from seeking a fourth term, faced no opposition for his second term and easily won a third term when challenged by Democrat Mike Stagg.
The contest between Stanley and Robideaux has been anything but quiet, and combined campaign spending approached the $1 million mark, with more than half of that coming from Robideaux.
The formal campaigns by the two candidates have been mostly about issues, but the out-of-town conservative political action committee Louisiana Victory Fund took jabs at Stanley in attacks on social media, in news releases and on the website www.lafayettesold.com, which greeted visitors with the title, “Dee Stanley had sold Lafayette out.”
The PAC announced a week before the election that it had filed a state ethics complaint against Stanley alleging he used city-parish government’s automated “robocall” service for a campaign message, which would be an obvious violation of ethics rules that bar the use of public resources for political campaigns.
The PAC put on its website a blurry video of a phone’s caller ID screen purportedly showing a city-parish government number while audio played of Stanley’s campaign call.
The PAC alleges the call went out about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 8.
City-parish government records indicate a robocall went out at that time, but it was a message informing residents about an upcoming zoning meeting. Stanley provided a receipt for a $1,002 payment he made to a private company for a campaign robocall on Oct. 9.
The Louisiana Victory Fund has endorsed Robideaux, but Robideaux’s campaign denied any association or communication with the PAC.