The District 2, Ascension Parish Council election on October 12 features two candidates who could not be much different from a personality perspective. Incumbent Bill Dawson amassed quite a record in an active first term, half of which will have been spent in the council chairmanship by year’s end. Challenger, Joel Robert is using the record against the incumbent who “wasted that leadership role…(and)…little got done of importance to the residents of District 2” since January of 2016.
There’s the cool, calculating reserve of incumbent Bill Dawson against the frenetic energy of Joel Robert. Robert has an awful lot to say, and he can’t get it all out fast enough; whereas Dawson’s measured manner leaves one wondering what he’s really up to on occasion.
Ascending to the chairmanship in January 2017 after 12 months in office, a spectacular rise by any measure, Dawson had already determined to kill off Ascension Environmental, a Public-Private Partnership supposed to bring wastewater treatment to east bank Ascension Parish; had already resolved put an amendment of the Home Rule Charter eliminating the parish presidency onto the ballot. Dawson’s machinations predated the incorporation of the Political Action Committee masked as non-profit, A Better Ascension (ABA), which was created to pursue the objective in earnest.
Joel Robert’s candidacy has made an issue of it, including his opponent’s ardent support as a prime tenet of his platform.
Dawson devoted much time and effort to ABA’s cause, convening A Committee of the Whole (Council) in August 2017, specifically tasked with vetting ABA’s proposal. When that fizzled out, seven council members showed up on October 26, 2017 disguised as empty seats, Dawson regrouped and drafted a resolution to convene a Home Rule Charter Revision Committee. The resolution purported to be a mere consideration of the existing charter, a subterfuge concocted by Dawson, which all but one of his council mates fell for on February 15, 2018…
The goal all along was ABA’s proposal on the ballot while evading the stringent amendment procedure imposed by the charter itself.
That came after his favored presidential candidate finished a distant third on October 24, 2015. Dawson was a member of Chris Loar’s campaign Steering Committee…
who transferred his support to Kenny Matassa’s campaign once his horse finished outside the money, and the runoff ballot. Playing ball with Matassa’s administration, there was a time when Dawson was a fixture at the Governmental Complex, it fell apart when the parish president was indicted in March of 2017. Matassa circled the wagons with Dawson outside the loop and there is palpable lingering resentment between them.
Which can only hurt Dawson on the west bank (District 2 stretches from Louisiana Square by the Donaldsonville Courthouse all the way to Diversion Canal) where he garnered impressive support in 2015. Two of District 2’s seven voting precincts are west of the Mississippi River. Bill Dawson got 91% of the vote in Precinct 50 (including St. Jude Subdivision east of Donaldsonville) and 70% in Precinct 48 (inside Donaldsonville’s city limits) against Philip Goppelt four years ago.
Worse yet for Dawson is the failed attempt to shift half of Prevost Hospital’s annual tax funding to West Ascension Recreation Facilities District, created at the behest of fellow west bank councilman Oliver Joseph. Dawson was not so out front as Joseph, but he supported the effort which failed when 58% of the voters rejected a ballot measure to divert funding on November 6, 2018.
It provided another opportunity for Joel Robert’s campaign, one he seems to have capitalized upon.
The Town of Sorrento is also situated in District 2 with Precinct 34 having been won handily (66%) by Bill Dawson in 2015. All is not well between the townspeople and their Parish Council representative due, almost exclusively, to drainage issues. Much of Sorrento went under water in 2016 and recent efforts to convince East Ascension Drainage Commission to help out with town ditches were frustrated for over two years.
While negotiations seem to have made some headway, many Sorrento residents have expressed frustration at EA Drainage’s reticence to help, and their councilman’s inactivity. In those three precincts (34/48/50) Dawson ran up a 262 vote lead in 2015, with another 221 Early Voting margin accounting for 481 votes of his overall 783-vote victory. If Robert turns those voters the margin shrinks considerably.
Precinct 35, District 2’s most easterly, includes all those homes along Diversion Canal where Dawson won by 64 total votes (60% to 40%) in 2015. The only precinct lost by the incumbent is No. 43, situated south of Hwy 30 astraddle Airline Hwy. That’s where homeowners dealt with…
newly-passed flood maps, which were subsequently voided after 71 properties were designated “Floodway.” Down 50 votes in 2015, it is reasonable to conclude Robert is even stronger against Dawson come October 12.
Which leaves the most populous precincts, 40A and 40B, where both candidates reside (Dawson in Pelican Point, Robert on Hwy 44). With 69% in both precincts four years ago, Dawson rolled up a 300 vote advantage. We are hard-pressed to see the incumbent winning without a significant advantage in Pelican Point because Robert has, if our information is correct, made gains along Loosemore Road…
and Pelican Crossing (the large subdivison across Hwy 44 from Pelican Point).