The St. Tammany chapter of the Alliance for Good Government has announced its endorsements for Slidell municipal races in the March 24 primary.
The group, which has 20 voting members, has endorsed Leslie Denham for District A, Tommy Benasco for District B, Chris Symons for District E, Kim Harbison for District F, and Ray Larry or District G. Denham is a Democrat the others all are Republicans.
In Districts C and D, incumbents Warren Crocket (R) and Val Vanney (D) will be reelected without opposition. Glynn Pichon (D) and Bill Borchert (R) won the group's backing for the two at-large seats.
This is an election that will see lots of turnover in Slidell government, with mayor Freddy Drennan term-limited along with six of the nine council members.
“Slidell’s in a crossroads,” said Chris Symons after the alliance's district council forum on Jan. 25. Symons is an online travel industry marketer and Division I college baseball umpire who was endorsed for District E.
Symons said that Slidell needs to take advantage of its “ideal location” between New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast to attract new businesses, especially in the tech field, where he has experience working for Travelocity and Hotels.com.
“We need that injection of cutting-edge technology,” he said.
Encouraging business growth was a theme during the forum, with many echoing Symons’ vision of attracting new technology.
But others took a different approach.
“What about the mom and pop stores?” said Ray Larry, a pastor who was endorsed for District G.
Leslie Denham, who was endorsed for District A, took a similar tone, saying the city needs to focus on recovering lost retail businesses. Slidell has seen many of its staple stores shut doors as part of a nationwide closing trend for brick-and-mortar stores as companies shift their focus to online.
The only current council member at the forum currently was Kim Harbison, who was endorsed for District F. She’s term-limited for her at-large seat.
District B endorsee Tommy Benasco also has experience serving the city, where he was a police officer from 1993 to 2006 and then from 2010 to 2013.
Benasco said that in his time there, as well as serving as chairman of the board for the Boys and Girls Club, he’s noticed something missing from Slidell — something he said contributes to crime.
“We lack, as far as a city, having places for our young teens,” Benasco said. “You know, we talk about the crime rate. Well — that’s where it starts. If we don’t have places for these children to go and give them a structured environment and help them become productive citizens, all we’re doing is just repeating the cycle.”
Earlier last week, the Alliance for Good Government endorsed former St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis for Slidell Mayor. He is one of four candidates, all Republicans, vying to replace Drennan when his second and final term ends.