A fifth alternative for Ascension’s Parish Council new district lines was added to the mix during Monday’s workshop, the third conducted by Geographic Planning & Demographic Services‘ Mike Hefner. This latest option was the product of one current member’s attempt to enhance his bid for reelection, District 7’s Aaron Lawler apparently having figured out that retaining the voters in Precinct 8 would seal his demise. Lawler pushed multiple options to offload the precinct which includes Willow Lake Subdivision among its 2100 voters, many of whom are out to get the two-term councilman.
The current map…
depicts Precinct 8, bordered by Hwy 42 to the north and Airline Hwy to the west, where perceived adverse drainage impact from Oak Grove Townhomes is most acutely felt. Option 4A, generated at Aaron Lawler’s urging on Monday…
would see Precinct 8 go to Council District 4 in exchange for Precinct 1. District 4’s council representative, when he bothers to show up, is Corey Orgeron who could not care less since the chances of his reelection under any circumstance is nil.
There are at least three individuals considering a run against Aaron Lawler, none of whom reside in Willow Lake Subdivision but would certainly enjoy campaigning against Lawler there. Willow Lake Homeowners Association sued Oak Grove Towhhomes, LLC along with Dantin Bruce developers and Ascension Parish in April of 2021.
Lawler was instrumental in the ultimate approval of Oak Grove Townhomes’ preliminary plat back on March 14, 2018 when it was “reconsidered” after first being denied. Multiple Willow Lake property owners participated in the unsuccessful recall of the District 7 councilman. Their inclusion in Lawler’s district severely diminishes his re-electability which explains multiple attempts to rid Precinct 8 from his constituency on Monday.
His first attempt on Monday proposed an exchange with District 11 where Councilman Michael Mason is the representative.
A Lawler-proposed precinct swap (his No. 8 for Mason’s No. 9) would have thrown the numbers off too far for Mike Hefner’s liking. District 7 would have been more than 10% less than the optimum number of residents per district (11,500) with District 11 at (+) 17%. So Lawler had to look west, across Airline Hwy where Perkins Road bisects Precinct 1 on its way toward Santa Maria Golf Course in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Off-loading Precinct 8 has been a work in progress for Councilman Lawler whose machinations resulted in…
after the second Redistricting Workshop in March. He was not alone and the result of sitting council members drawing up their own maps was too many split precincts that, in turn, require more voting machines, polling places and added expense. Mike Hefner took the liberty of revising Plan 3 on his own, placing Precinct 8 back in District 7 prior to Monday’s workshop…
Because of too many “precinct splits, the major plan configurations we have discussed had the following precinct splits:
- IP Plan 1- (7)
- Plan 2- (14)
- Plan 3- (11)
- Plan 4- (4)”
“Every precinct split,” according to Registrar of Voters Shanie Bourg “means a new precinct.” It becomes confusing for voters and costly to taxpayers, all to placate council members desirous of reelection. At present there are 69 precincts with several containing more than 2,000 voters.
Those precincts, many in Prairieville, “need to be split” said Clerk of Court Bridget Hanna who recommended employing several new public schools as polling places.
The new district map must be finalized by passage of an ordinance before July 2023 according to Council Chairman John Cagnolatti. Qualifying for the October 14, 2023 primary elections is August 8-10. Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, along with Clerk of Court Hanna and Registrar Bourg, has urged early completion with many electoral adjustments necessary no matter how the map changes.