Gerrymandering effort fails, District 7 incumbent still formidable candidate

New District 7 map in green

11 Ascension Parish Council seats are scheduled to be contested on October 14, with some districts having seen major changes to accommodate wildly shifting demographic patterns reflected in the most recent decennial census.  Our analysis of those district-by-district shifts, with an assessment of potential changes to the electoral dynamic, focuses on District 7 today.  (See above for map going into effect for Election Day, adopted during a Special Meeting of the Council on December 29).

We can recall no Ascension Council member who is more detested and loathed parish-wide than District 7’s incumbent, Aaron Lawler.  A dishonest grandstander, ever the quipster with a never-ending string of lame jokes which he alone finds humorous, none of which means Lawler will be an easy out in his Prairieville district (as inexplicable as it sounds to the rest of Ascension).  There are multiple groups of citizens coming together to secure his ouster, combinations comprised of citizens all across the east bank though only time will tell how effective they can be.

Networking (social and otherwise), commitments to walk District 7 neighborhoods, monetary contributions to the campaigns of challengers…we have heard it all discussed.  But most of the anti-Lawler contingent do not have the right to cast a vote against him on October 14 (a few actual constituents expressed reticence to publicly oppose the councilman for fear of retribution).  Added to a healthy contingent of angry constituents though, the electoral dynamic becomes more tenuous than Lawler has faced in two prior elections.

NOTE:  A recall effort against Lawler in 2021 got off to a good start before foundering, participants could not sustain the initial energy once passions cooled.

Not as smart as he thinks, nor dumb as he appears, Aaron Lawler has bested six opponents in two contested elections cycles.  He won a 2015 runoff election after garnering a plurality of the vote to lead a five-man slate of District 7 hopefuls; in 2019 he was forced to a runoff in a three-candidate contest.  Lawler won both runoff elections going away (59% in 2015, 63% in 2019).

Current District 7 map in orange

The District 7 map had to shrink since its burgeoning population exceeded the ideal by too many residents.  That was achieved early on by moving the southern half of Precinct 10 from District 7 to District 11, then ceding a small area east of Muddy Creek to District 5.  Mission accomplished as far as the professional demographer was concerned…but not jibing with the District 7 incumbent’s electoral math.

Lawler seeks to eliminate Willow Lake Subdivision constituency

Councilman Lawler proposed an entirely unnecessary precinct swap, seeking to eliminate Precinct 8 for Precinct 1 currently in District 4.  Precinct 8 includes Willow Lake Subdivision where residents are furious with the incumbent who rigged the process to approve the preliminary plat for Oak Grove Townhomes (a plat that had already been denied by Ascension’s Planning Commission, then appealed to the Parish Council by Lawler’s pals at Dantin Bruce Development).

Any of his fellow colleagues who supported Lawler’s gerrymandering attempt would have been held to account.  Public antipathy for the District 7 representative extends to other districts where representatives would suffer at the polls for backing Lawler’s play.  Lawler, once they all bailed on him along with the consulting demographer, claimed his gerrymandering attempt was a joke…

Lame.  Pathetic.  Reptilian.

As much time as he spends on social media one would think Aaron Lawler would be warier of the screenshot.  Expect to see a stream of his Facebook faux pas when campaign season ramps up.

On top of it all, you have to question his ethics.  Lawler’s machinations to secure approval for Jamestown Crossing, Phases I & II were every bit as egregious as the Oak Grove Townhomes’ disgrace.  As the Transportation Committee chairman he sat on an updated Traffic Impact Study proposal until another Dantin Bruce development could be approved…

Sale price for Jamestown Crossing

and a council colleague could pocket a big check for selling the subject property.  Both developments access Hwy 42 inside District 7.

And this from a guy whose 2015 campaign platform included:

Aaron Lawler 2015 campaign literature

Zero for six was good enough for his constituents in 2019.  Why the voters of District 7 would support him is an utter mystery to a vast majority of their Ascension brethren.   Closer observers tell us that a not insignificant pro-Recreation crowd in Prairieville constitutes Lawler’s base.

In January he traded the Council Transportation Committee chair for the same spot over the Recreation Committee.  Why newly-anointed Council Chairman Chase Melancon made that appointment is utterly inexplicable.  Ascension Parish Recreation under Director Michael King is now a professionally run department with $18 million in the kitty (according to Ascension’s Budget Book for 2023).  So much federal money has been lavished upon parish recreation from the American Rescue Plan and other COVID-era largesse that $1 million was excised from the budget for lack of “capacity” to complete all the fundable projects.

Biggest Recreation Budget in Ascension history unveiled. Is it enough?

Dollars to donuts Lawler plans to campaign on Recreation projects undertaken when Election Day, October 14, rolls around; projects that would have been done with or without his input.  What was Chairman Melancon thinking?

Lawler’s antipathy toward Parish President Clint Cointment is well-documented, which will only diminish his re-electability if the Chief Executive gets involved.  It was Lawler who orchestrated the failed attempt to strip Cointment of operational control over East Ascension Drainage in 2021.  Talk about misreading the room.

EA Drainage’s 2021 coup attempt is over (Cointment wins big)

Deserved or not, Lawler and his five council cronies miserable failure only enhanced Cointment’s standing.  With enemies like this, who needs friends?  As yet, there has been no challenger to come forward for the parish presidency and it will take a formidable one, indeed, to unseat Cointment.

Not so as it relates to the District 7 incumbent.  We have been approached by no less than a-half-dozen individuals expressing interest in opposing Lawler.  Whoever ultimately throws his/her hat in the ring will have an awful lot of support.

Count us in.