Midterm Congressional elections almost always produce some of the highest voter turnout across the country.
That was the case again on Nov. 6 when 54 percent of St. Tammany Parish’s registered voters cast ballots. There were a staggering 29 elections, state Constitutional amendments and local referendums to be decided that day, and that number alone meant many voters had a candidate or cause important to them to spark interest.
There are far fewer decisions to be made in the Dec. 8 general election, and voter participation is predicted to be much lower than it was a month ago.
St. Tammany Parish Registrar of Voters M. Dwayne Wall said 3,714 ballots were cast through three days of early voting (including mailed ballots) for general election races. That's in comparison to 9,264 ballots cast through the first three days of early voting in the Nov. 6 primary, which is a downturn of about 60 percent.
“The midterms are the real drivers (in turnout,)” Wall said. “Once you don’t have those races, and there’s only one statewide race with secretary of state, the numbers are going to come down.”
While the Dec. 8 ballot may lack a high-profile statewide or even parishwide race, there are several local elections that will be closely followed.
They include the contest for state representative for the District 90 seat in the Slidell area, where Republicans Mary DuBuisson and John Raymond are vying to replace Greg Cromer, who was elected Slidell’s mayor earlier this year.
DuBuisson, a local businesswoman and Cromer’s former legislative assistant, led a four-candidate field in the primary with 29 percent of votes. Raymond squeaked into a runoff with three more votes than Democrat Sean Morrison (both men garnered 25 percent of ballots.)
Fourth-place finisher Brian Glorioso, another Republican who had 20 percent of votes on Nov. 6, since has endorsed DuBuisson.
In Abita Springs, incumbent Mayor Greg Lemons is attempting to hold off a challenge from Town Alderman and fellow Republican Dan Curtis.
Curtis led a five-person primary field with 29 percent of votes, and Lemons trailed with 27 percent. The 44 percent of Abita residents who supported one of two independent candidates or another "no-party" candidate in the primary likely will decide who will be elected mayor on Dec. 8.
In Pearl River, voters will choose between Republicans Jack Sessions and Chris Culotta to be the town’s next police chief. Sessions led the primary with 43 percent of votes, and Culotta had 31 percent. Incumbent J.J. Jennings finished third in the primary.
District 8 School Board incumbent Peggy Seeley finished 42 votes ahead of challenger Mike Winkler in the primary, each netting 36 percent of ballots in a three-way race for the Pearl River/Slidell area seat. Both are Republicans.
The runoff for the District 11 School Board seat pits Republican Tammy Lamy (39 percent in the primary) against Democrat Maurice Doucette (27 percent.) Incumbent Bob Womack failed to make the runoff in a four-person race.
The school board could have as many as seven new members when the new board is seated. Candidates already successful in their bids for office are Matthew Greene (replacing retiring Neal Hennegan in District 1); Charles Brandon Harrell (replacing his retiring father, Charles T. Harrell in District 5); Shelta Richardson (who defeated incumbent Willie Jeter in District 7); James Braud (replacing retiring Robin Mullett in District 13); and Lisa Page (replacing retiring Mary K Bellisario in District 15).
Voters across St. Tammany will vote on a 1-mill, 10-year renewal to fund operations at the parish's animal shelter. There also is a 10-year, 10-mill renewal for operations costs for St. Tammany Fire Protection District 11 in the Pearl River area, and a renewal for a $96 annual property fee for drainage concerns in Parish Drainage District No. 4 in the Slidell area.
Voters also will cast ballots in the secretary of state race, where Republican interim secretary Kyle Ardoin faces Democrat “Gwen” Collins-Greenup.
For a sample ballot, candidate information, polling locations and more, log onto the secretary of state website at voterportal.sos.la.gov/ or the St. Tammany Parish Registrar of Voters website at www.stprov.org.