Just before Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng formally kicked off her campaign to lead the parish Tuesday night, former Parish President and current candidate John Young sent around a press release.
Coincidence? Some of the bigwigs who read the email on their phones while waiting for Lee-Sheng to speak didn’t think so.
And indeed, there were bigwigs galore, along with plenty of friends and even onetime teachers at the packed Southport Hall. Lee-Sheng’s kickoff amounted to a show of force — proof that, while she’s the only candidate who has never held the parish presidency, she enters the race as the one to beat.
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Among those on hand to hear Lee-Sheng talk about honesty, integrity, and modernization of the parish’s aging environment and housing stock were former Parish President Tim Coulon, Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer, former Sheriff Newell Normand and current Sheriff Joe Lopinto, state Treasurer John Schroder, quite a few legislators and local officials, and a majority of Lee-Sheng’s council colleagues.
Of particular note was the contingent from Kenner, where current Parish President Mike Yenni once served as mayor. Yenni never recovered from the sexting scandal early in his tenure, but is still acting as if he may run. Yet Mayor Ben Zahn, Parish Councilman Dominick Impastato and other officials who hail from the city showed up at Lee-Sheng’s event, which should tell Yenni something about his level of support.
The anticipated showing apparently already has told Young something.
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The subject line of his email was about his pitch to cover up more of the parish’s ugly and dangerous open drainage canals, and that was the focus of the accompanying video. But the text indirectly targeted Lee-Sheng. Young didn’t name her, but she was clearly in mind when he wrote that “insider political power brokers are lining up candidates they can control” and “the courthouse has its candidate. They want a President who will do its bidding. I will be your servant, not theirs.”
Young did have a reputation as an independent leader, and unlike his predecessor Aaron Broussard and his successor Yenni, he served without career-threatening scandal. Yet there were at least a few people who once would have been with Young at Lee-Sheng’s event. He hasn't held a formal kickoff but did start raising money last year, so we should know how that went once he reports his 2018 total later this week.
Young may have gotten an early start, but Tuesday's tit-for-tat clearly marked the real start of the campaign. And if there’s one overall message parish voters should take away, it’s “game on.”