M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. unseated two-term Ascension Parish Assessor Renee Mire Michel in Saturday’s election, complete but unofficial returns show.

Smiley defeated Michel by less than a percentage point, 50.31 percent to 49.69 percent, according to the parish Clerk of Court’s office.

Smiley received 144 more votes than Michel, 11,736 to 11,592, after the two candidates waged a tough campaign battle.

Smiley, a two-term Republican state representative from St. Amant who gave up a chance at a third term to run for the parishwide office, has accused Michel of playing favorites with assessments and he promised to bring fairness.

“I knew it was going to be very close the whole way,” Smiley said.

“What I did was I worked extremely hard, and I think that is why I won.”

Michel, a Gonzales Democrat, has countered that Smiley lacks experience. She touted her 30 years in the office as an employee and assessor.

Michel attributed the loss, in part, to lower than expected turnout from minority voters.

She said the people have spoken. “That’s what elections are all about,” she said.

Unofficial turnout was 34.3 percent.