Just two years after triumphing in convincing fashion in a four-person field, Ken Brass is asking House District 58 voters to come out once again on Oct. 12, this time to elect him to a full term representing the River Parish legislative district.
The 42-year-old from Vacherie has a challenger, perennial office-seeker and Gonzales resident Chris Delpit.
Early voting is under way and concludes Saturday.
District 58 is a predominantly African-American district that stretches along both sides of the Mississippi River from Iberville Parish through Ascension and into St. James Parish. Its population centers include Convent, Donaldsonville, Gonzales, Paulina, St. Gabriel, Vacherie and White Castle.
The district also votes very Democratic. In 2016, it went 71% for Clinton versus 27% for Trump.
The district, however, is also heavily industrial with an abundance of refineries and chemical plants, places that employ many District 58 residents. Political leaders there are faced with the challenge of trying to integrate community residents with the massive plants in their backyards.
Both candidates work in the petrochemical industry.
The four candidates in Saturday’s special election agree that River Parishes’ House District 58 has more than the usual numbers of refineries …
Brass is a longtime electrical engineer with BASF. Almost all the time he's worked there, he's also been in elective office. When he was just 25, he won a seat on the Lutcher Town Council. He then went on to serve for 10 years on the St. James Parish Council before voters promoted him to state representative in 2017.
Brass credits his parents, both of whom worked for the St. James school system, for his interest in public service.
“They always instilled in me and my sister to always give back,” Brass said.
He comes into this election with an unusually wide range of endorsements, ranging from labor unions to major industry groups such as the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. He presents himself as a broker, someone who can balance the interests of the plants and the sometimes much poorer residents of his rural district.
“I’ve developed some great relationships, to bring residents towards industry, to bring industry towards residents, to bring everyone together,” Brass said.
A key part of that is an ongoing push to build a new job training center connected with River Parishes Community College somewhere between Donaldsonville and St. James Parish. It’s part of a larger effort to both connect residents of the area who don’t benefit from industrial jobs to those jobs as well as to grow more local businesses.
"I just want to bring in more diverse, smaller businesses, different types of business, to where you can have different types of opportunity and give people a chance to make this their home,” Brass said.
The Oct. 12 election will be the fourth attempt for Delpit, a safety consultant working in the petrochemical industry, to win a seat in the state Legislature. He ran in 2011 for this same seat and then ran for state Senate in 2015 and 2017. Spending almost no money each time, his share of the vote peaked at 12% in 2015 and fell to 1% two years later.
Thirteen candidates from seven parishes are vying for the Senate District 2 seat left vacant after second-term state Sen. Troy Brown resigned …
Delpit, 60, is once again relying on word-of-mouth to spread his message. He said he thinks it’s working, saying he’s seeing signs of heightened desire for change this election.
“The best way to communicate is me talking to you, you talking to someone else and that person talking to other people,” Delpit said.
Delpit said his overriding goal is to work closely with all of the leaders in District 58 to figure out ways to rev up the local economy.
“We need jobs, because without jobs nothing happens,” he said.
He blamed politicians for letting big employers off the hook, giving them tax breaks and then not insisting they hire local.
“If you go to most of those plants, you see more out-of-state license plates than Louisiana license plates,” Delpit said.
For his part, Brass said he’s not taking his opponent lightly. In the most recently available reports, Brass had raised more than $53,000 for his reelection and still had about $42,000 on hand for the final weeks of the campaign.
He said when he first arrived in Baton Rouge, the state was looking at budget cuts. He said he’s happy the state has turned a financial corner.
“With that surplus, we can do a lot more,” he said.
CANDIDATE: Kendricks "Ken" Brass
OCCUPATION: Electrical engineer at BASF
EDUCATION: Lutcher High School, bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Southern University
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: St. James Parish councilman, Lutcher alderman and Democratic Party State Central Committee member
CANDIDATE: ‘Chris’ Delpit
OCCUPATION: Safety consultant in the petrochemical industry
EDUCATION: Attended East Ascension High School; graduated from high school in California; attended MiraCosta Community College, Oceanside, Calif., for two years
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Ran for state House of Representatives in 2011 and for state Senate in 2015 and 2017