At least for now, former Kenner mayor and Jefferson Parish councilman Louis Congemi wants his political comeback to happen at the expense of either Chris Roberts or Cynthia Lee-Sheng.
Congemi on Monday said he intends to run for one of two at-large posts on the Jefferson Parish Council during the Oct. 24 primary election, and not for a Metairie-based seat he considered vying for because it won’t have an incumbent defending it.
That route will put Congemi in a race against either Roberts — who’s finishing up his third term overall on the council and first as an at-large rep on the body — or Lee-Sheng, who is term-limited from running for re-election in Metairie-based District 5 and last month said she would run for an at-large post now held by veteran councilman Elton Lagasse. Lagasse won’t seek re-election to his seat because he’s instead running for the Jefferson Parish presidency against Mike Yenni, the mayor of Kenner since 2010.
Congemi is not a challenger to be taken lightly — he opened the year with a hefty $265,299 in his campaign finance account. He has name recognition after serving as Kenner’s mayor from 1996 to 2003 and then the Jefferson council from 2004 to 2012, when term limits prevented him from running for re-election to his 4th District seat, which included much of Kenner and part of western Metairie.
But Congemi could hardly ask for tougher opponents. Finishing up her second term as the District 5 representative, Lee-Sheng can expect significant support in Metairie, and her campaign chairman — Newell Normand, Jefferson Parish’s influential sheriff — is a skilled raiser of funds. Normand, of course, was the political protege of Lee-Sheng’s late father, longtime Sheriff Harry Lee.
Meanwhile, Roberts has a staunch support base on the West Bank, especially around Gretna, where the parish seat is.
Congemi said he opted to run against either Roberts or Lee-Sheng instead of for the District 5 seat because he felt vying for a position that would allow him to represent both the East and West Bank of Jefferson Parish was “the logical next step” after being Kenner’s mayor and already representing a council district.
He said he believed most candidates for office in Jefferson Parish this election cycle would tote similar messages: improvements in sewerage, streets, public safety and education. The deciding factor, Congemi opined, would be, “Who do (the people) trust to get these things done?”
“I have experience doing a lot of these things,” Congemi said.
Congemi added he would consult with public officials parish-wide and conduct polling before formally announcing his candidacy at a campaign kickoff event. Qualifying for the fall primary is scheduled to run from Sept. 8-10.