Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni has no shortage of problems these days, all stemming from news stories about the FBI investigation into his lewd text messages to a 17-year-old and his vaguely worded, videotaped and distinctly unsatisfying apology.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni for the first time on Wednesday confronted the scandal…
Despite Yenni's pleas for privacy and a second chance, the entire parish council has not only called on him to resign but backed it up with a no-confidence vote. Other local governments have weighed in against him as well, including Kenner, the city he led as mayor before he was elected parishwide last year. Catholic schools don't want him on their campuses, and the parish's public schools may ban him too, despite his pre-emptive offer to stay away voluntarily.
A new Clarus Research Group poll of 501 registered voters commissioned by The Advocate and WWL-TV found that a remarkable 93 percent of respondents know of the scandal, 74 percent want Yenni to resign, and 72 percent would vote to remove him from office against his will if critics manage to pull off a successful recall drive.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni is in real danger of being removed from office by vote…
And the poll suggests that getting that question before voters isn't as far-fetched a prospect as it might seem. Louisiana's procedures favor the status quo by requiring verified signatures from a third of the jurisdiction's registered voters just to get the question on a ballot. In Jefferson Parish, that would translate into more than 90,000 signatures, which is more than the number of votes cast for Yenni and his four vanquished opponents combined in last year's election. Even if there's no organized opposition, just getting that many people to take a public stand is daunting.
But the poll hints that it may be attainable, particularly given that a muscular, apparently well-funded and seemingly well-organized petition effort is already underway. Forty-five percent of the people polled said they'd definitely sign a recall petition, which would translate into 121,000 potential signatures alone. That should be more than enough, even without the additional 24 percent who said they'd probably sign on.
And believe it or not, Yenni's troubles get more complicated from there. As bad as his numbers are, they're far worse in comparison to the rest of the parish's political structure.
While Yenni's approval rating is underwater, with 21 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him and 70 percent saying their view is unfavorable, the politicians who are trying to push him out remain highly regarded. Same goes for several of his potential replacements.
The FBI has been looking into allegations that Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni sent se…
Sheriff Newell Normand has a stunning 77 percent approval rating, with just seven percent disapproving. The two at-large parish council members aren't quite as well known, but their numbers are strong, too; 51 percent like Cynthia Lee-Sheng and just seven percent don't, while 47 percent view Chris Roberts favorably, compared to 16 percent who see him unfavorably. Lee-Sheng and Roberts were the first big names to call on Yenni to resign, and Normand later joined them.
Then there's Yenni's predecessor in office, John Young, who has a 63-15 favorable-unfavorable ratio, according to the poll. Young would likely have won re-election easily last year, but he ran for lieutenant governor instead and came up short. Now, he's one of the rumored candidates to take over the presidency should Yenni go. So is Lee-Sheng, who was promoted from a district council seat to the parish-wide post without attracting opposition last fall.
Poll numbers aside, these two offer something else Yenni just can't these days. Yenni's name was a familiar one to voters, given that this grandfather and uncle had both served as parish president. He surely benefited from the association, particularly among voters outside of Kenner who might not have followed his career closely.
But both Young and Lee-Sheng are well-known and well-liked on their own, after years on the scene. Both are, on paper, the type of leader voters often turn to after taking a chance on a relative unknown and getting burned, the way New Orleans voters chose Mitch Landrieu after eight years of Ray Nagin.
And if there's one thing that Jefferson Parish voters probably don't want these days, it's more surprises.
The Jefferson Parish Council can't remove Mike Yenni from the job he insists on clinging to,…