11 members having last stood for election on October 12 (and one runoff election on November 16), 2019, there is one Ascension Parish Council member who is raising significant money in preparation for October 14, 2023. District 1’s Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas’ campaign pocketed $7,300 according to the report filed on February 9. The bulk of it came in two waves; from September 8-14, 2021 and December 2-17, 2021 as Thomas prepares for his reelection bid.
Thomas’ campaign did receive $50, from himself on February 3, 2021 after winning 53% of the vote in 2019 when his campaign war-chest was a meager $273. It was from a single reported contribution which the candidate ponied up to buy signs. Reporting the payment of $600 to campaign workers on Election Day, there is no corresponding report to account for that figure’s origination.
Filing five reports during 2019, Thomas reported ZERO funds “on-hand” each time. As of February 9 he had $7,238.05 in the bank, having spent $61.95 on “bank fees.” His contributor list includes a blast from the past, $200 from former parish president, Kenny Matassa’s Campaign matched by Matassa henchman, Thomas “Moose” Pearce. Those two were among a spate of December contributions which included $250 from Ascension’s current Chief Administrative Officer John Diez.
The bulk of Thomas’ money came from the usual suspects, assorted engineering firms (and a maximum $1,000 contribution from the pseudonymous entity controlled by Glenn Shaheen whereby he funnels campaign cash under the radar, or attempts to do so; Professional Investments, LLC).
Thomas is facing an uphill climb in 2023, after besting incumbent Oliver Joseph in 2019 by a healthy 53%-47%. Two factors weigh against his reelection in 2023.
Thomas has lost favor with a significant share of Donaldsonville’s political class. His incessant griping and unwarranted attacks of President Clint Cointment have worn translucently thin as the administration has committed more parish resources to the west bank than any before it, and it ain’t close. Donaldsonville’s own, Kenny Matassa (rumored to be a mayoral candidate in the City of Gonzales in 2024…no, seriously), did little to engender goodwill in his native Donaldsonville.
More dire for Thomas, his District 1 must extend to Ascension’s east bank where he will struggle to gain traction. With the Council currently considering newly-drawn district maps, it appears that the district will include Pelican Crossing Subdivision and other areas east of Hwy 44/south of Interstate 10. A scenario in which Thomas does well there is hard to conceive.
Should Thomas come up short, another majority council turnover becomes a real possibility. The 2019 election saw six of 11 incumbents turned out of office.
Three-term Teri Casso has declared that she will not seek a fourth, first-termer Dal Waguespack is, according to numerous sources, ready to call it a career after four years. Waguespack would not commit, one way or the other when asked in November. Neither of their campaigns have raised any money since prior to 2019’s election. Casso’s latest report shows $1,515 “on-hand” with Waguespack’s $1,627.
Both were targeted by less than vigorous recall petitions in 2021. From what we have heard, Casso and Waguespack did not take the slights lightly.
Is there any scenario in which the unmitigated disgrace that is Councilman Corey Orgeron would seek reelection? There is none in which he could win. Orgeron did pocket $500 from the Greater Baton Rouge Home Builders Association according to his February 9, 2022 Campaign Finance Report, and has $551 “on hand.”
It ain’t enough. Of six recall petitions targeting council members, the one against Orgeron gained the most traction and, if handled more deftly, could have succeeded.
Five-term councilman, District 5’s Dempsey Lambert has to be considered vulnerable, as does District 7’s Aaron Lawler who is in his second term. Both were subject to failed recall petitions last year.
Lambert, the last standard bearer of one of Ascension’s oldest political machines, will always have the ability to raise money. He has $6,963 left over from 2019, the last contribution to his campaign at the end of November that year, and he has won five times in a row. But an upstart, political neophyte who got into the race at the last minute came within 39 votes of denying him the fifth term.
Councilman Aaron Lawler, an easy guy to dislike, has bested six other candidates in winning two elections. There have been four names mentioned as potential opponents for 2023, and a list of angry voters compiled during the unsuccessful recall with which to begin the campaign against him. Lawler, who has not begun fundraising, has $2,019 “on hand” as of February 14.
Councilman John Cagnolatti, a failed recall attempt notwithstanding, will be a tough out in District 10 next year. Given his adamancy over how the district lines are redrawn, Cagnolatti certainly seems to be gearing up for a third term. And money will not be a problem since he has $7,642 in the bank with the ability to raise a lot more if needed as evidenced by the $2,750 he banked post-election in 2019.
No potential opponent has emerged to take him on. Neither have we heard of challengers to:
Travis Turner is currently serving his third term as District 3’s council representative. After crushing (61%-39%) the incumbent (Adrian Thompson) in 2011, Turner has run unopposed.
Three first term councilmen have not, as yet, been targeted for unseating, not that we are aware of anyway. There remains a possibility that District 2’s Joel Robert and District 6’s Chase Melancon could end up in the same district once the new lines are finalized. Michael Mason’s (he did collect $400 from two Baton Rouge residents in March of 2021) path to reelection seems clear…for now.