A week from today, Lafayette Parish voters either will have elected a new mayor-president or narrowed the field of five candidates to two, with a final vote Nov. 16.
With five people in the race, a runoff is probable, Pearson Cross, head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said Saturday.
One candidate would have to receive 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to win outright Oct. 12.
"Mathematically, I expect a runoff," Christie Maloyed, assistant professor of political science at UL said. "it would shock me if there wasn’t a runoff."
Making it difficult to ascertain which two candidates will make it to the Nov. 16 runoff is the fact that no polling results on the race have been released to the public, Cross said.
"The outcome of the race is entirely an exercise in subjectivity," Cross said. "Nobody knows what's going to happen when the polls close and the results come in."
The five candidates hoping to replace Mayor-President Joel Robideaux in January to serve as the top executive over the parish of Lafayette and the city of Lafayette are Carlee Alm-LaBar, 43, of Lafayette, registered no party; Simone Champagne, 64, of Youngsville, Republican; Josh Guillory, 36, of Lafayette, Republican; Carlos Harvin, 59, of Lafayette, Democrat; and Nancy Marcotte, 59, of Lafayette, Republican.
Alm-LaBar, who announced her candidacy before Robideaux said he would not seek a second term, leads the field in raising campaign money, according to reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration. Based on fundraising alone, Maloyed said she believes Alm-LaBar, Champagne and Guillory are the top three candidates.
If forced to make a prediction, Maloyed said, based on how much money they've each raised, Alm-LaBar will probably face either Champagne or Guillory in the Oct. 12 runoff.
In a series of forums and in interviews, the candidates agreed improving drainage so as to reduce flooding is top-of-mind for many residents since the August 2016 floods and will be a priority if elected. Largely they agree on the basics of how to get it done: Continue cleaning coulees and ditches, dredge the Vermilion River, work regionally with other parishes in the watershed to address the issue overall.
Voters could be faced with another home rule charter amendment in the next year or two. All five mayor-president candidates said they would support efforts to split the very position they're seeking, mayor-president, into two positions: A mayor for the city of Lafayette and a parish president for the parish of Lafayette.
In December, voters approved a home rule charter amendment to replace the nine-district City-Parish Council with separate councils for the city of Lafayette and parish, but keeping a single mayor-president.
Maloyed said she imagines the city and parish councils may bring up a proposition within their first year in office to split the mayor-president position. If both councils approve, it could be on the fall 2020 ballot, she said, but could not be implemented until the four-year term of the mayor-president elected this year expires.
Asked about their top road project and the Interstate 49 Connector, the candidates offered different perspectives.
Alm-LaBar and Harvin said they support redevelopment of Evangeline Thruway into a grand boulevard that's more pedestrian friendly and inviting for retail development.
Harvin said at a One Acadiana/KATC forum Sept. 18 he wanted to see the I-49 Connector project be a top agenda item to boost economic development in north Lafayette. In a later interview, though, he said he feared building an elevated freeway will create homelessness problems that New Orleans faces. The grand boulevard and plans for the surrounding neighborhoods could help revitalize the area, he said.
Champagne said she will push for the I-49 Connector and work with an I-49 team to get it done. Marcotte will continue Robideaux's plans to redevelop University Avenue. Guillory supports the Connector but wants to start the process to fund and build Interstate 10 frontage roads.
Lafayette Parish public libraries have come under scrutiny and criticism in the past couple of years for several reasons, one of them being a $40 million surplus the library system accrued to build and operate new libraries throughout the parish. Voters in April 2018 rejected a property tax renewal for the libraries in large part because of the surplus.
The library system still has two property taxes generating money. But on the Oct. 12 ballot is a proposal to spend $8 million of the surplus on drainage and roads and $2 million on parish recreation.
The City-Parish Council also recently allotted money from the library surplus to expand the Carencro library and build a new library in northeast Lafayette.
Alm-LaBar and Harvin support spending the money to build the new library. Champagne, Guillory and Marcotte do not.
Champagne said she supports existing libraries but doesn't believe new ones should be built. It will cost too much and bookmobiles with technology can bring the libraries services to under served areas.
Marcotte said supports libraries, too, but because of the need for money for drainage and infrastructure, she may try to stop construction of the new library.
About the candidates
Carlee Alm-LaBar, 43, is a resident of the city of Lafayette and a former Democrat who switched to no-party in 2006. This is her first time running for office. A native of Tennessee, Alm-LaBar has lived in Lafayette since 2000. In 2010 she went to work for former City-Parish President Joey Durel, a Republican, and remained on for the administration of Robideaux, also a Republican, spending much of that time as an assistant to Durel and in planning and development. She resigned in 2018 to work for Southern Lifestyle Development, leaving that post at the end of June to campaign.
Simone Champagne, 64, a resident of the city of Youngsville who works as the chief administrative officer for the city, was born and raised in Jeanerette, in Iberia Parish. Champagne was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2007 as a Democrat representing Iberia and Vermilion parishes, switching to the Republican party after her election. A former banker and CAO for Iberia Parish government, she resigned during her second term in the legislature to move to Youngsville in 2014 and work for the city under Mayor Ken Ritter, a Republican.
Josh Guillory, 36, a resident of the city of Lafayette and a family law attorney with a downtown office, was born and raised in Alexandria. He came to Lafayette at age 18 and has lived in the parish since. A graduate of UL Lafayette in marketing/business, he served in Iraq with the Louisiana National Guard in 2005. Guillory unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018, challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a fellow Republican, who he says he now supports.
Carlos Harvin, 59, a resident of Lafayette and the lone Democrat in the race, moved around when he was growing up with a father who worked for Immigration and Naturalization. He spent six years studying to be a Catholic priest but left because he wanted to marry. Harvin said he came to Lafayette in 1993 to help form the Imani Temple. He is pastor of New Beginnings Church today and sells life insurance. This is his first time running for public office.
Nancy Marcotte, 59, of Lafayette, a Republican who has never run for public office, moved to the city as a child after her father retired from the military. She worked in graphic design and, when her husband's oilfield job sent the family to the New Orleans area, Marcotte earned her realtor's license. When they moved back to Lafayette, she started working for Keller Williams in real estate and today is owner or investor in six franchises.