At-large Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts has drawn a second challenger in his bid for re-election this fall.
Former longtime parish councilman Jimmy Lawson announced Wednesday that he will run for Roberts’ seat during the Oct. 24 primary. Louis Congemi — the former Kenner mayor and parish councilman — declared he would do the same six days earlier, setting up a three-way race for the office now held by Roberts.
Lawson is a Democrat from Gretna, where Roberts — a Republican — has a staunch support base. He served on the Jefferson Parish Council from 1976 until 1995. He left office after being defeated by Lloyd Giardina.
Fourteen years later, Lawson took a job as an executive assistant to then-Parish President Aaron Broussard. Lawson’s position was eliminated after Broussard resigned from office in 2010, a couple of years before he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.
Lawson then qualified in February of 2011 to compete against Roberts to fill an at-large Parish Council seat that John Young vacated after winning a special election to replace Broussard. Lawson withdrew from the race a couple of days later, and Roberts defeated Tim Baudier after capturing 76 percent of the more than 43,000 votes cast in that election fewer than two months later.
Lawson joined the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority’s board of trustees in 2012 and was appointed by Parish Councilman Paul Johnston to the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority in September.
Lawson said in his announcement that he is challenging Parish Council Chairman Roberts because he is unimpressed with the way he has dealt with the parish’s efforts to lease its two public hospitals, among other things.
A proposal to lease West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero to LCMC Health is pending approval, but negotiations have been drawn out. Another proposal to lease East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie to the firm HCA fell apart earlier this year.
“I hear residents expressing an overall lack of confidence regarding the handling of parish business,” said Lawson, who added that he traveled around Jefferson meeting various citizens before deciding to enter the race against Roberts and Congemi, also a Republican. “I believe that constituents parish-wide will benefit from knowing everything there is to know about Mr. Roberts, and you can expect my campaign to be brutally honest.”
Lawson, 68, was a teacher and Jefferson Parish School Board member before he joined the council. He said his various roles in Jefferson’s government have helped him to better understand the needs of parish residents.
The other at-large seat on the Parish Council is now held by Elton Lagasse, who is running for parish president against Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni in the October primary. Young is foregoing re-election to run for lieutenant governor.
District 5 Councilman Cynthia Lee-Sheng is running for the at-large seat Lagasse is leaving behind. Mike Thomas, John Labruzzo and Jennifer Van Vrancken are running for the Metairie-based district that Lee-Sheng is vacating.