The federal mid-term elections are a nonevent in Louisiana, but Jefferson Parish has some red-hot school board races. In several of the seven contested board elections, the Nov. 6 primary is another showdown between business interests and the teachers union. Then, of course, there's the contest for a Kenner seat on the school board.
Eight years ago, the Jefferson business establishment backed a majority of the nine-member school board, and that majority began making changes opposed by the union. Four years ago, the national union dumped $450,000 into several board races and recaptured a majority.
Later, some of the board members supported by the union in 2014 began siding with business interests. Nothing is ever crystal clear in Jefferson politics. For example, board member Melinda Doucet of Harahan won her first bid for the District 7 seat in 2014 with the union's support, but she sided with the business folks in voting to oust Superintendent Isaac Joseph.
Doucet filed to seek re-election this year but was disqualified for failing to file state income tax returns. Her lone challenger, former football coach Billy North of Harahan, will be the new board member from that district. Elsewhere, incumbent Larry Dale of Metairie won his District 6 seat after he drew no opponent. Dale has been a reliable vote for the business faction.
In the Kenner-based District 9 contest, incumbent Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge faces challenger Colleen Winkler. Where other board races might see candidates accusing each other of siding too closely with either business or union forces, in District 9 it's all about scandalized Parish President Mike Yenni, the former mayor of Kenner who in 2016 was excoriated for sexting a male high school senior a year earlier. (The business community backs Denapolis-Bosarge; the union supports neither.)
Although Yenni has not publicly endorsed either candidate, his political troops are lined up behind Winkler, a highly regarded public school principal who happens to be a neighbor of the parish president. Winkler also has hired Yenni's chief political consultant, Greg Buisson, to run her campaign.
Another wrinkle: Some of Yenni's one-time political allies — including Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn and Parish Councilman Dominick Impastato — are staunch supporters of Denapolis-Bosarge, who authored the board resolution barring Yenni from public school property after his sexting scandal broke in 2016. Zahn and Impastato since have publicly rebuked Yenni, and Denapolis-Bosarge refused Yenni's request several months ago to rescind her resolution barring him from school grounds.
When Winkler filed to run against Denapolis-Bosarge, the incumbent's political backers began spreading the word that Winkler is "Yenni's candidate."
Again, Yenni has issued no endorsement, but neither did he play an official role in the special election for sheriff last spring. He nonetheless was a millstone around the neck of early front-runner John Fortunato, who made the fatal mistake of telling the truth about being a Yenni ally. Less than two weeks later, Fortunato (who also used Buisson as his media consultant) lost a close race to Sheriff Joseph Lopinto.
It's a safe bet we won't hear Winkler endorsing Yenni for re-election, as Fortunato did, but that won't stop her opposition from making Yenni an issue.
Gotta love Kenner politics.