Incumbent Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez defeated challenger Kathryn Goppelt in Saturday’s election to lead Louisiana’s fastest-growing parish for the next four years, complete but unofficial returns show.
With all precincts reporting, Martinez won with 72 percent of the vote, or 16,486 votes, compared to Goppelt’s 28 percent or 6,408 votes, according to the parish Clerk of Court’s office.
Martinez, an independent, said he thinks the results show the people like what his campaign has been discussing, including a plan for regional parish sewer system and a plan for road improvements.
“I think the people have spoken. We have done a pretty good job the past four years, and I am proud they have given us this opportunity for another four years to serve them,” Martinez said.
Martinez, 61, lives in St. Amant. He was Ascension’s first parish president when elected in 1992 to a two-year term.
The focus of the campaign has been on growth — from the style of development appropriate in Ascension to pressing infrastructure needs.
According to 2010 census results, Ascension grew by nearly 40 percent in the prior decade to 107,215 people.
Part of the growth was fueled by an influx of New Orleans area residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and an exodus of residents from Baton Rouge, according to demographers and parish officials, though the pace of that growth has slowed.
Goppelt, a Republican, attributed her loss to low turnout among her voters.
Unofficial voter turnout was 33.6 percent.
“We offered them a choice, and they didn’t want any change. I guess that is what the people wanted,” Goppelt said, adding that she ran a clean campaign on the issues.
Goppelt, 60, is a resident of Gonzales.
A longtime activist and a familiar face at government meetings, she made her first run for elective office.
Goppelt said she was running to preserve what is left of the parish’s rural character.