St. Tammany voters ignored Brister’s advice

St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister swept to an easy re-election victory in October, taking 71 percent of the vote against three challengers. But when she tried to use her popularity to help some candidates in Saturday’s runoffs, she proved to have very short coattails — in fact, no coattails at all.

Brister, who did not endorse any candidates in the Oct. 24 primary, sent out mailers last week supporting incumbent Sheriff Jack Strain and Clerk of Court candidate Matt Faust. She also backed a candidate in the hotly contested Parish Council District 7 race, endorsing Jacki Schneider, who was challenging incumbent Jake Groby.

All three lost, though each got at least 48 percent of the vote.

Brister also asked voters to pass nine proposed amendments to the parish’s home rule charter. All but one failed.

A mailer featuring Brister’s photo went out for Strain last week, saying the Sheriff’s Office is a “model of integrity” and that, as parish president, she has worked closely with him.

“I encourage you to vote for integrity, safety and experience — please join me in voting for Sheriff Jack Strain,” the mailer said.

Strain, who had not faced an opponent in 12 years, lost to Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith.

Brister’s image also appeared on a mailer alongside U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise endorsing Faust in his bid for the clerk’s seat left open by Malise Prieto, who chose not to seek a sixth term. Faust lost to Melissa Henry.

Groby narrowly beat back Schneider’s challenge.

Brister, who appointed the committee to review the parish’s charter, said the 15-year-old document needs to be updated. She sent out a mailer asking voters to adopt all nine amendments, saying they were drafted by “a committee of citizens, just like you,” and it was important to vote yes on all of them.

The mailer highlighted one in particular, Amendment 5, that would have allowed parish government to use its own attorneys instead of the District Attorney’s Office for legal counsel. That idea generated opposition from 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery. Among other objections, he said the change would cost more money.

Brister’s mailer argued the opposite, saying the change would streamline operations and save money.

Sixty-one percent of voters rejected that amendment.

North shore campaign featured lots of mud

Although it was the governor’s race that drew national attention for its deepening nastiness, the battle over a state Senate seat in Louisiana’s dairy belt was nearly as bitter.

The runoff between Republican Beth Mizell and Democrat Mickey Murphy in Senate District 12 flipped an intensity switch right after the Oct. 24 primary, with Murphy filing an ethics complaint and launching a video ad that linked Mizell and gubernatorial candidate David Vitter closely together. Mizell, for her part, accused Murphy of spreading “lies in every direction.”

Mizell won an easy victory Saturday, taking 58 percent on a day when Vitter was trounced.

The district includes all of Washington Parish and largely rural areas of St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. The incumbent, Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, was term-limited.

In the Oct. 24 primary, Mizell led a field of four with 43 percent. Murphy won 33 percent, so he started the runoff with some ground to make up and a brawler’s approach. The former drill sergeant and vocational-technical college educator launched broadsides against Mizell.

He publicized a phone message he received from a “state employee” referring to a “PAC check.” The caller apparently called the wrong number and left the message with Murphy and not with Mizell, he said.

Murphy also put out a TV ad trying to tarnish Mizell with a Vitter-dipped brush. The ad, which used images of the two juxtaposed together, concluded by saying that the pair would be “wrong for Louisiana.”

And like fellow Democrat John Bel Edwards, who defeated Vitter, Murphy sought to play up his service in the armed forces, filming an ad in which he fantasized about telling Gov. Bobby Jindal to drop and do pushups.

Mizell fired back, accusing Murphy of being liberal with the truth. “Let’s reject the lies and negative campaigning of my opponent,” she said in an ad, promising to work with whoever was elected governor.

In an interview, she called Murphy’s statements “an act of desperation,” adding that “mud is being thrown from several directions at once.”

As for the donation, she said she had taken money from the state Republican Party, as Murphy did from the state Democratic Party. She added that she didn’t know anything about the phone message. “That’s a two-way conversation that I wasn’t privy to,” she said.

Whether it was her campaign or her conservative politics, the voters preferred Mizell.

Compiled by Sara Pagones and Faimon A. Roberts III