The race to succeed Cynthia Lee-Sheng as the Jefferson Parish Council’s representative for Metairie-based District 5 has its first official candidate.
Lawyer Mike Thomas — a Republican who served on the parish council as an interim appointee from April 2011 to January 2012 — announced on Tuesday that he will run for the District 5 post during the Oct. 24 primary. He informed supporters of his decision during an event at Barreca’s restaurant on Metairie Road.
Pledging their support to Thomas, 41, during the gathering at Barreca’s were Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and Assessor Tom Capella.
Thomas worked as an aide for Capella when Capella was an at-large parish councilman from 2004 to 2011. Capella on Tuesday told those at the restaurant that Thomas helped run their office when various disasters — among them Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav, as well as the 2010 oil spill — affected the parish.
“He’s done it,” Capella said about Thomas’ having experienced major crises as a council aide. “He’s prepared.”
Normand said it’s crucial for District 5 to “have a deliberate leader” like Thomas.
“We do not have time to deal with people who are going to vacillate,” said Normand, whose political mentor was Lee-Sheng’s late father, former Jefferson Sheriff Harry Lee. “We do not have time to deal with people who are going to (wait to) see which way the wind is blowing. ... That’s why I’m supporting Mike Thomas.”
Thomas, for his part, explained that his time both on the council and as Capella’s aide taught him that tackling basic issues such as sewerage and drainage was as important as being at the forefront of emergencies like storms.
“I’m going to be a councilman you can depend on,” said Thomas, whose campaign is being managed by veteran political consultant William Allerton. “When you need something, I’ll be there. ... I know what it takes, and I’m prepared to deliver.”
Others at Thomas’ announcement included former Parish President Tim Coulon; Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer; and three-term Jefferson Councilman Elton Lagasse, who is running for the parish presidency in October.
Thomas has been considered an obvious candidate for District 5 since at least March. That’s when Lee-Sheng said she’d run for an at-large seat on the council because term limits prevented her from seeking re-election in District 5, where she’s served since 2009.
Realizing the seat had no incumbent, Thomas had previously said the thought of campaigning for it appealed to him, especially because of his past on the council.
Thomas joined the council after Capella was elected parish assessor in April 2011. He was appointed to finish out Capella’s term after a vote by the council.
An assistant district attorney from 2001-04 and an assistant parish attorney from 2000-01, Thomas made a name for himself as an outspoken council member, which surprised those who thought he’d maintain a low-profile because he wasn’t elected to his seat.
Aside from Thomas, no one as of Tuesday had officially declared they’d run for District 5 this fall. Many speculate that Jennifer Van Vrancken Dwyer will run — she is the chief operating officer for Parish President John Young, who is not seeking re-election and is instead campaigning for lieutenant governor.
Dwyer, though, has been mum about her future plans.
Former state Rep. John LaBruzzo in March offered himself up as another potential candidate for the District 5 post on the council. He was a member of the state House from 2004 to 2012, representing a district that encompassed Metairie.