St. Charles Parish voters will decide Saturday between a sitting Parish Council member and a 24-year-old political novice in a runoff for the council’s open at-large Division B seat.
Democrat Jarvis Lewis, a 2013 graduate of Xavier University and a former parish deputy tax assessor, was the frontrunner in the April 5 primary with 47 percent of the vote. Julia Fisher-Perrier, 33, a Republican insurance agent who has represented the council’s 7th District since late 2012, finished second with 38 percent.
Des Allemands contractor Stanley Hebert, who lists no party affiliation, trailed with 15 percent.
The seat must be held by a resident of the west bank, but voters parishwide can cast ballots in the special election.
The post opened up when Clayton “Snookie” Faucheaux resigned from the council last year. The term runs through 2015.
Fisher-Perrier would appear to have several advantages over her opponent: greater name recognition, more money and the fact that she is white and he is black in a parish where 70 percent of the voters are white.
However, she had the same advantages in the primary and finished behind Lewis — perhaps because of some voters’ unhappiness with the current council, or perhaps because he simply worked harder than she did in contacting voters and getting them to the polls.
Fisher-Perrier has raised and spent more money than Lewis. In her April 7 campaign finance report filed with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, Fisher-Perrier reported having $4,679 on hand as of Jan. 1. Through March 16, she raised another $2,700 in contributions but also spent $4,292, mostly on printing political signs and campaign materials, and another $1,322 on catering and renting a venue for a fundraiser. That left her with $387, records show.
Lewis said in his March 5 report that he had about $579 in the bank as of Feb. 24, having raised $1,000 in contributions from Jan. 1 to Feb. 24 and having spent $420 on printed campaign materials.
Both candidates live in Luling.
During the campaign, Lewis stressed the need for the Parish Council to spend public money wisely, especially as it works to stash away money for levee projects. Fisher-Perrier campaigned on improving levee protection and keeping roads safe.
Fisher-Perrier was appointed to the council on an interim basis in November 2012 and won the 7th District seat outright the next February, when no one qualified to run against her.
She blamed low voter turnout for her second-place finish in the primary and said she is optimistic more residents will head to the polls Saturday because the council seat isn’t the lone item on the ballot this time.
St. Charles voters also will decide Saturday whether to renew a $2.6 million property tax that goes largely toward funding emergency services at the publicly owned St. Charles Parish Hospital. The vote would extend the 2.48-mill tax for a decade.
“I was a little disappointed at the turnout” in the primary, Fisher-Perrier said. “I think that the turnout was pretty low, but for one item on the ballot in a special election, I think that turnout is always the issue. Hopefully, more people will come out and cast their ballots this go-around.”
Fewer than 4,400 voters, or about 13 percent, turned out for the April 5 primary.
Fisher-Perrier said her time serving on the council is a clear advantage. She wants to move to the at-large seat, she said, because it would give her a larger voice as the parish works to build its long-awaited comprehensive flood protection system on the west bank, a $500 million project that parish officials broke ground on last year.
“We’ve definitely taken more of a grass-roots approach this time,” she said of her campaign, adding that she has been going door to door since the election to remind residents about the upcoming runoff.
Lewis said he also has been knocking on doors, sometimes for up to six hours a day.
“I try to keep it moving. You get to meet more people,” he said.
So far, he said, he’s gotten a warm reception.
“They like the idea of a fresh new face on the council, to take a fresh new voice,” he said. “You’ve got people willing to support me.”
Lewis said his candidacy may benefit if voters decide to “split the baby.” By electing him, he said, voters can have both him and Fisher-Perrier on the council together, because she would still have her district seat, and also potentially avoid the cost of another special election.
“There’s no sense in costing the parish an extra election if she was to win,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story was changed April 29 to reflect that if Fisher-Perrier were to win the runoff, the ensuing special election would not necessarily cost parish residents more money. The election could be timed to coincide with the U.S. Senate election in November.