Danny Becnel, a well-known trial lawyer and class-action specialist from LaPlace, has announced he plans to run for St. John the Baptist Parish’s highest office this fall.
Becnel, 70, said his disgust with the performance of incumbent President Natalie Robottom prompted his decision.
He criticized Robottom’s handling of Hurricane Isaac in 2012, saying she should have called for a mandatory evacuation, and said she also failed to secure money for the parish by suing BP, as many other local government entities did.
He also ripped her administration’s handling of the crisis that ensued when dangerous amoebas were discovered in the parish’s water supply.
Thousands of residents have left the parish in recent years, he said, a fact he blamed on Robottom’s poor stewardship.
Becnel said he supported Robottom four years ago. He said he does not really want the job, but his efforts to persuade others to challenge her have been unsuccessful.
“When nobody would run, I said, ‘Doggone it, I can’t continue to let this parish go down the tubes,’ ” he said. “If I win, I win. If I lose, I’m moving.”
“I’ve got nine houses,” he added, going on to list them for a reporter.
Becnel, who described himself as “independently wealthy” and said he has a $20 million law practice, said he will not accept campaign contributions. If he’s elected, he likely will donate his salary to charity, he said. He also said he would not use a parish-owned car or take any retirement benefits.
Becnel’s wife, Mary Hotard Becnel, serves as a judge in the 40th Judicial District.
The election is Oct. 24. Qualifying begins Sept. 8.
2nd ex-councilman to run against Roberts
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 has announced he will run for Roberts’ seat in the Oct. 24 primary. Louis Congemi — a former Kenner mayor and parish councilman — earlier declared he would do the same, 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 qualified in February 2011 to compete against Roberts for the at-large Parish Council seat John Young vacated after winning a special election to replace Broussard as parish president. Lawson withdrew from the race a couple of days later, and Roberts went on to defeat Tim Baudier, capturing 76 percent of the vote.
Lawson joined the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority’s board of trustees in 2012 and was appointed by Councilman Paul Johnston to the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority in September.
Lawson said in his announcement that he is challenging 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 and difficult. 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 with voters before deciding to enter the race against Roberts and Congemi, also a Republican.
“I believe that constituents parishwide will benefit from knowing everything there is to know about Mr. Roberts, and you can expect my campaign to be brutally honest,” he said.
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 understand the needs of parish residents.
Compiled by staff writers Gordon Russell and Ramon Antonio Vargas