Incumbents fare well in area elections

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 16, 2002


Fewer candidates, fewer district seats open for vote and fewer voters at the polls meant more incumbent victories at the Oct. 5 St. John the Baptist Parish elections.

A total of 18 parish seats opened for election in October and one multiparish race (for Public Service Commission). Twelve candidates for public office were unopposed in their race for parish office. Only two titles were awarded to nonincumbent candidates.

“Rosie” Weber Monica was elected Justice of the Peace, District 4, with 54 percent of the votes. Don “Merkel” Detillier was elected Justice of the Peace, District 6. He was unopposed. No incumbents ran in those elections.

Is it harder for an up-and-coming public figure to achieve public office? In this election, voters agreed that, ‘yes,’ incumbents can have the advantage. Some believe below normal turnout could also be to blame for incumbent candidates’ overwhelming victory at the polls Saturday.

Polls opened Saturday, but few voters were expected at the polls. Most residents were busy cleaning up debris left after Hurricane Lili swept through the state, bringing some heavy winds and rain to the River Parishes. Amid the chaos of preparing for the storm, and in some cases for evacuation, some residents simply forgot it was election time.

Officials are not certain how many voters actually did make it to the polls over the weekend. Parish officials said they hoped to have an official count by Tuesday evening.

But voters were not the only thing missing from the weekend elections. St. John Parish School Board candidates were completely missing from election ballots. School Board members could not qualify for the October election because the U.S. Justice Department has not “precleared” a redistricting plan for the parish.

The 2002 redistricting plan is being reviewed by the Justice Department to see if the reduction of minority voters in some districts hurts future minority candidates running in that district. An early plan, from 1995, is also under review.

Just a few weeks ago, the School Board received a letter from the Justice Department asking for more information on past elections, candidates, minority voters and more. The Justice Department will have an additional 60 days to review the plan once the requested information has been received.

Despite the small number of candidates and the notable absent of School Board candidates, the October election was not without its share of scandal. The high profile election race between District Attorney John Crum Jr. and opponent “Geri” Broussard-Baloney made headlines in September. In early September, Crum won a suit at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that challenged his residency in St. John Parish. Some supporters of opponent Broussard-Baloney alleged Crum was not eligible to run for parish DA because he was not a typical resident of St. John Parish.

Crum maintains two homes, one on Madewood Drive in LaPlace, the other in New Orleans. Crum said the Orleans Parish home was a maneuver to keep his wife and children safe from any public backlash that might occur as a result of his position.

By the end of the month, Crum’s opponent was also in the spotlight after faulty campaign fliers told businesses that contributions to her campaign were tax-deductible. Broussard-Baloney said it was a mistake and apologized for any inconvenience.

Crum went on to win the election with 62 percent of the votes.

District Judges Mary Hotard Becnel, Division B, Madeline Jasmine, Division A, and Sterling Snowdy, Division C ran unopposed.

Other winners include Virgie Jarrow-Johnson, Justice of the Peace, District 1; Clarence “Chut” Brown, Justice of the Peace, District 2; Diane Jacob, Justice of Peace, District 3; Karen J. Bailey, Justice of the Peace, District 5; George Allen, Justice of the Peace, District 6; Todd Clement Sr., Justice of the Peace, District 7; Milton Cox, Jr., Constable, District 1; Albert Burl, III, Constable, District 2; Anatole “Touie” Jacob, Constable, District 3; Russel Landeche, Constable, District 4; Donald “Donoo” Brady, Constable, District 5; and Keith Bourgeois, Constable, District 7.