Jefferson Parish Councilman Paul Johnston will get to extend an uninterrupted run in political office that dates back to 1995 after soundly defeating challenger Michael O’Brien in his re-election race Saturday.
With all 68 precincts reporting, Johnston had captured 10,820 of the 18,354 votes cast (59 percent). O’Brien, a West Bank businessman who’s now lost two elections, had 7,534 votes (41 percent).
The race between Johnston and O’Brien — both Republicans — largely centered around the pros and cons of re-electing a well-tenured politician or choosing to go with the president of an Avondale shipping-container firm who said his financial background would help the Parish Council run more efficiently.
During his campaign, Johnston, 67, said his record made him deserving of another term representing Parish Council District 2, which includes Harahan, River Ridge and the westernmost part of West Jefferson. Johnston was a Harahan City Council member when that municipality suffered devastating flooding during intense rains in 1995, and he was Harahan’s mayor when Hurricane Katrina inflicted more damage on the city a decade later.
Johnston said after the floods 20 years ago he began pushing for a drainage project meant to reduce rain-related flooding in Harahan and Elmwood that is now in progress. For Katrina, he said he and his administration opted to handle its own clean-up from the storm.
Johnston — who joined the Parish Council in 2012 after some 17 years in Harahan city government — also promised to continue seeking financing for upgrades to facilities in the district such as playgrounds, senior centers and fire stations.
O’Brien tried to deny Johnston a second term partially by pointing out that the new parish Performing Arts Center in the district opened in June many years late and twice as expensive as it was thought it’d be. O’Brien, whose company is Avondale Container Yard, said an alert businessman would’ve never let something like that happen.
O’Brien, who moved to District 2 after running unsuccessfully in 2011 for the District 1 Parish Council seat now held by Ricky Templet of Gretna, also promised to push for all parish officials to be connected online to one central system. That system could field residents’ complaints via a mobile app and automatically direct them to the appropriate officials, who would be required to respond within a reasonable time, the 39-year-old O’Brien said.
Johnston countered that he, too, had the business background O’Brien frequently touted on the campaign trail. Johnston said he worked in the janitorial-supply business since 1981 and had his own company in that industry for 12 years.
Johnston’s new four-year term will begin in January.