Voters in Mandeville, Madisonville and Grand Isle will cast ballots for mayor and council members in Saturday’s election, which also includes a parishwide vote in St. Tammany on a term limits proposition and a new tax for a Covington-area lighting district.
While Louisiana’s presidential primary is center stage, Mandeville’s municipal races have been generating drama for months, with a fierce contest between incumbent Mayor Donald Villere and City Councilman Rick Danielson and five council seats up for grabs.
The small town of Madisonville will elect its first new mayor in 40 years. Town Council members Mark Badeaux and Jean Pelloat are vying for the seat left open when Mayor Peter Gitz decided not to seek an 11th term. Seven candidates are running for five Town Council seats.
In Grand Isle, Mayor David Camardelle faces Councilman Stephen “Scooter” Resweber. Two council races and a police chief race also are on the ballot.
Early and absentee voting in St. Tammany was higher than normal, with 8,081 people casting ballots, according to Registrar of Voters Dwayne Wall. That’s four times higher than the early voting in the last presidential primary, he said. “There’s some interest out there,” he said. There was a flurry of activity on the final day to change party registrations as well, an indication that the presidential primary is attracting attention.
Based on the early voting numbers, Wall predicts a 28 percent to 30 percent turnout.
The Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office also is projecting what spokeswoman Meg Casper described as a robust turnout for a presidential primary: 20 percent to 25 percent. The highest seen recently for a party primary was 25.6 percent in 1992, she said.
Besides the presidential candidates, party contests include races for state central committee members.
The most controversial local issue for St. Tammany voters is a home rule charter amendment that would limit Parish Council members to three four-year terms, beginning in 2020.
The measure was not included in a raft of charter amendments that went before voters in November. The Parish Council had resisted putting a term limit proposition before voters, only giving in after mounting criticism at a time when members were facing re-election.
The change of heart came too late to get on the fall ballot, where all but one of the nine charter amendments failed.
Term limits, by contrast, have long been popular with the Tammany electorate. In fact, a group called the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany has decided that three terms is one too many. And it’s asking its members not to vote either way on the ballot measure as a protest.
Only one tax proposition is on the St. Tammany ballot, a 10-year, 11/2-mill tax for the recently created Road Lighting District No. 17. The Covington-area lighting district is in the northwest quadrant of Interstate 12 and U.S. 190.
The tax is expected to generate about $82,000, which would be used to cover maintenance and operation costs for road lighting in the district.
In the Mandeville City Council races, incumbent Clay Madden is running at-large, as is Councilwoman Carla Buchholz, who is term-limited in her District 2 seat, and political newcomer Lauré Sica.
Candidates for Council District 1 are Jerry Coogan and incumbent David Ellis. The only open seat, District 2, has drawn Melinda Crawford and Michael Pulaski. In District 3, incumbent Ernest Burguières faces challengers John Keller and Jeff Lyons.
The seven candidates running for the five-member Madisonville Town Council are James Bouey, Tim Bounds, Myron Bourg, Kevin Brannigan, Chris Hitzman and Michael Sunseri.
In Grand Isle, four candidates are running for police chief: Frank “Paco” Besson, Norris Esponge Jr., Laine Landry Sr. and Irv Magri.
Two council seats are in play, with David Cantrelle and Ray A. Santiny running for District A and Kelly “Pete” Besson Jr. and Jay LaFont running for District B.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.