Three of the nine seats on the Lafayette City-Parish Council are still up for grabs in the Nov. 21 runoff, with two incumbents fighting to keep their spots and a third contest to replace a two-term councilman who opted not to seek re-election.
Incumbent Brandon Shelvin is defending his District 3 seat from challenger Patrick “Pat” Lewis, and incumbent District 6 Councilman Andy Naquin faces Bruce Conque, who once held the seat.
In District 8, first-time candidates Gerald Judice and Elizabeth Webb Hebert are vying to replace Councilman Keith Patin, who is not seeking a third term.
Three incumbents walked back into office unopposed — District 1 Councilman Kevin Naquin, District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux and District 9 Councilman William Theriot.
Three other races were decided in last month’s primary election.
District 5 Councilman Jared Bellard and District 2 Councilman Jay Castille won re-election to third terms.
Nanette Cook won the District 7 race, taking a seat that was open after Councilman Don Bertrand chose not to run for re-election.
She is the first woman elected to the City-Parish Council, though women had served on the separate city and parish councils before the two governments consolidated in 1996.
Ursula Anderson and John Petersen, the two candidates who were bumped out of the District 3 primary last month, have endorsed Lewis in his bid to unseat Shelvin, who is serving his second term representing a largely city-based district in north Lafayette that includes the downtown area.
Shelvin, who garnered 38 percent of the vote in the primary compared with Lewis’ 26 percent, downplayed the impact of the endorsements.
Shelvin said voters who supported Anderson, a Republican in a district dominated by Democrats, and Petersen, a white Democrat in a minority district, aren’t likely to shift allegiance to Lewis in large numbers.
“Some of their votes were unique to the characteristics that they brought to the table,” Shelvin said. “The endorsement that I’m looking for is from at least 50.1 percent of the people in that district.”
Shelvin also points to his past performance: He won his first term with 57 percent of the vote in 2007 after emerging from a six-man primary and his second term with 60 percent of the vote in 2011.
Both candidates cited economic development and public safety as priorities for District 3.
But Lewis, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 2 seat in 2007 before district lines were redrawn, said he would bring a more open style of politics to the council.
“Most of all, it’s about open communication, where I can be reached and contact them (constituents) back. … It’s lacking, and also, I want to have open dialogue with the other eight councilmen,” Lewis said.
Shelvin said he has heard no complaints from constituents about his accessibility, noting that he puts his personal cellphone number on campaign literature and gives council staff permission to give his number to anyone who calls.
Shelvin said he is running for a third term in part to shepherd some key projects in his district, including efforts to buy and tear down the troubled Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to make way for new development and the redevelopment of the old federal courthouse site downtown into mixed-use residential and commercial space.
District 6 incumbent Naquin, who is serving his first term, is facing a challenge from Conque, who once held the seat but stepped down in 2008 after accepting a job with the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.
There is one clear difference between the candidates: Conque wants council members representing the city to have more power on the council, but Naquin doesn’t think it’s an issue.
The once-separate governments of Lafayette Parish and the city merged in 1996, but there have long been complaints about council members representing largely rural districts voting on city-specific issues, such as the budgets for the city’s police and fire departments or matters involving the city-owned utility system.
Conque said he wants to amend the constitutionlike city-parish charter to ensure only council members from city districts have a say on city issues.
Naquin said he sees no point in the change.
“Show me one vote where the council has hurt the city of Lafayette,” he said. “I can’t say that this city has ever been hurt by the way the charter has been set up.”
Naquin said he would work over the next four years to prioritize the budget, ranking projects by need and possibly cutting some programs, such as funding for outside arts groups, in an effort to free up money for roads, drainage and public safety.
“There are some monies out there that maybe we shouldn’t be giving away,” Naquin said. “The priorities need to come first. There is no doubt about that.”
Conque’s campaign has focused on proposals to make the city more friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists, to improve public transportation, to refocus development into the core of the city and similar proposals detailed in a comprehensive plan for growth and development the council endorsed last year.
“Certainly, we should address the issue of sprawl,” Conque said.
On the issue of finding more money for roads, drainage and other infrastructure needs in rural areas of the parish, Conque said there is not enough money, no matter how hard the budget is scrubbed.
“We have to face reality. We are going to have to look at additional revenue streams,” he said.
Naquin took 41 percent of the vote and Conque took 33 percent in the four-person primary last month.
Alicia Chaisson, who came in third with 13 percent, has endorsed Conque.
The District 8 race — wide open after incumbent Patin bowed out — is a contest between two first-time candidates.
Judice, co-owner of the popular Judice Inn restaurant, and Hebert, sales manager at the Cajundome Convention Center, emerged from a three-person primary last month.
Though newcomers to running for office themselves, both have played behind-the-scenes roles in past campaigns.
Judice has volunteered in several local and legislative races in recent years, including those of City-Parish President-elect Joel Robideaux, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret and state Sen. Page Cortez.
“That kind of sparked my interest,” Judice said. “I’ve always been intrigued with politics but never thought I would run myself.”
Hebert’s most recent political experience was as campaign manager for Erick Knezek, who won a seat on the Lafayette Parish School Board last year.
“I’ve always been involved. I knew I was going to eventually run for the city council,” she said.
The campaign has been cordial, and both candidates talked in interviews last week of the need for good communication with constituents and fellow council members, and better planning to address Lafayette’s continued growth.
Judice said his college degree in finance and his decades of experience in business — in the restaurant industry as well as a theater he co-owns in Opelousas — make him an ideal candidate for the council job.
Judice said his work keeps him in close contact with the public, and he has honed the skills needed to execute a plan.
“You can’t just sit back and let things happen,” he said of the business world. “You have to get out and hustle and make decisions.”
Hebert said she has learned the ins and outs of local government and how to navigate the political world in her nine years at the publicly owned Cajundome.
She also has been active in community groups, serving as president of her homeowner’s association, as past board president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana and as a board member for the 705, a local young professionals group.
“My experience is in working with may different types of people and getting them to work together,” she said.
In the three-candidate primary last month, Hebert pulled 37 percent of the vote and Judice received 34 percent.