With 20 days left before the April 6 deadline, the group pushing to oust Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni over a sexting scandal has conceded it won’t have anywhere near the number of signatures needed to force a recall election.
Recall Yenni leader Robert Evans III said Friday that even after spending $120,000, his group would not be able to collect the roughly 90,000 signatures required under state law.
The announcement made no mention of how many signatures the group was able to gather. And beyond saying they were about halfway there, members of the group have declined to give specific figures in the past few months.
“I’ve spent more than I said I was going to spend, committed countless hours and could not be more inspired by the efforts of all our volunteers and the voters of Jefferson Parish who supported this effort,” Evans said in a statement posted on Recall Yenni’s Facebook page Friday morning. “But I cannot in good conscience have people pursuing this effort when we know time and funding is against us."
That concession is a big victory for Yenni, who has resisted calls for his resignation from the Parish Council and virtually every parishwide elected official.
In September, WWL-TV reported that Yenni had sent sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old in 2015. At the time, he was mayor of Kenner and was campaigning for the parish presidency.
The FBI has been looking into allegations that Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni sent se…
In a statement Friday, Yenni said he was "pleased the recall chapter is closed, but truly the news doesn't impact how I will continue to govern.
"I have never let the recall effort nor any politically orchestrated campaigns against me distract me from doing the job I was elected to do," said Yenni, who has claimed that his loudest critics were simply pursuing old grudges that go back years.
Yenni has only admitted to sending “improper” texts to the teenager, who has since identified himself as Alex Daigle and who now attends Brown University.
Yenni has said his primary focus is on moving forward and doing his job, which he has continually insisted he was doing despite the scandal and the widespread calls for his resignation.
Recall Yenni launched the petition drive in October, saying that Yenni, a married father, had proven himself unfit to hold office. The group had 180 days to gather the signatures of one-third of the parish's roughly 270,000 registered voters.
The recall effort came on the heels of two polls indicating a strong majority of the voters thought Yenni should resign. One poll, commissioned by The Advocate and WWL-TV, found that half of the respondents said they would “definitely” sign a recall petition and 20 percent would "probably" sign.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni has released a statement on the recall petition filed against him Wednesday morning.
In it, he promised to respect the result, but reiterated his contention that the sexting allegations against him are a personal matter and restating that he is still capable of doing his job.
Converting that sentiment to actual signatures, however, proved to be too tall an order.
The first blow came when Evans failed to persuade a judge to allow Recall Yenni volunteers to get as close as 100 feet to polling stations during the hotly contested presidential election in November and the U.S. Senate runoff election in December.
Volunteers instead had to stay 600 feet away, as required by state law, and they got only 3,000 signatures to add to the roughly 30,000 the effort had already collected. Organizers had initially hoped the presidential election would produce the majority of the signatures they needed.
In a second big push, Recall Yenni recently followed up a door-knocking campaign with a mailer that put a postage-paid signature form into the hands of registered voters. The return rate fell far short of expectations, and the decision was made to admit defeat.
Less than two months away from a crucial deadline, organizers of the effort to force a recal…
Political analysts have said that the initial bar for recalling an elected official is set almost impossibly high in Louisiana, particularly for larger cities and parishes. A recent analysis by the state House of Representatives found that in the past 40 years, no recall petition had succeeded in a jurisdiction with more than 25,000 voters.
State Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington is preparing a bill that would lower the threshold from a third of registered voters to a third of the number of voters who cast ballots in the previous election for that office.
Evans said he was encouraged by the effort to make recall elections easier to trigger, calling the current standard “a betrayal” of Jefferson Parish citizens akin to Yenni’s texts.
While the recall petition drive is over, he said, “I will support the fight to have the recall laws changed and encourage all voters to tell their Louisiana state representatives and senators to do the same.”
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.