Our Look at the Most Interesting Races
By Jeff Thomas
Jefferson Parish is one of the wealthiest and most influential parishes in the state of Louisiana. As a part of the metro New Orleans, the parish skews more Republican and conservative. Slightly more affluent than Orleans Parish, Jefferson has more available resources to serve its residents. Yet though newer than Orleans Parish, Jefferson is beginning to see problems with its infrastructure that make political choices more impactful. Flooding, crime, and economic development affect not only this parish but the entire metro area. Leaders who recognize the need for coordination and whenever possible collaboration best serve this metropolitan.
Our Look at The Key Races in JP
Jefferson Parish President
Former President John Young faces the current Parish Council At Large Councilwoman Cynthia Lee Sheng. Young touts his past experience as Parish President and curiously claims most frequently to be a tough on crime candidate. Yet a quick look at his website, shows only traffic court as real-world criminal justice experience.
If more frequent rain causes increased flooding in Jefferson Parish, then police boats might have difficulty issue tickets to motor vehicles. Flooding imperils us all and ironically is the best crime fighter. Leaders must provide accurate info to citizens, cause if we cannot stop our region from flooding after heavier and more frequent thunderstorms, then there will be no crime in this ghost town.
Conversely a look at Cynthia Lee Sheng’s website reveals a plan of regional cooperation and detailed ideas to safeguard us from the dangers of ever increasing flooding. Ms. Lee-Sheng suggests progressive, modern approaches to living with and managing water that can actually help our infrastructure. She also supports a tough on crime agenda that includes economic development as part if the solution. This intelligent nuance demonstrates an understanding of the root causes of crime and a progressive government response.
Look for motivated women voters to help Cynthia Lee Sheng make history as the Jefferson Parish president.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff
The rematch of current Sheriff Joe Lopinto against the former high-ranking JP deputy John Fortunato is much less intense and polls suggest the recently elected Lopinto will coast to victory. Oddly, Fortunato early on was the strong favorite in the last race, until he expressed support for current Parish President Mike Yenni, whose flirtations with an underage boy are the reason the Parish President’s seat is open.
Even though Fortunato has since distanced himself from the comments explaining he misunderstood, the strong support he once enjoyed on the westbank of the parish has significantly shrunk. Further, Lopinto has raised nearly 15 times the money as Fortunato. And Fortunato’s more affluent and conservative eastbank vote has completely abandoned his candidacy. Without money, endorsements and little money, Fortunato has not even bothered to update his website for this current race and the outcome of this contest seems a forgone conclusion.
Jefferson Parish Council
At Large District B
The At-Large race pits long time Jefferson Parish politician Paul Johnston against the former TV anchorman, turned businessman Scott Walker. The 70-year-old Johnston has an incredible history of service in Jefferson Parish, having been elected 7 times. Walker hopes his name recognition after being nightly anchor of a highly rated TV news broadcast will propel his new ideas versus the old incumbent campaign to victory.
Johnston is a hard-working old-school politician with decades of successful patronage that citizens will remember. This is the most intriguing race in the parish.
This most crowded and best race in the parish in the seat gerrymandered to provide African American representation in parish government. And as the only seat currently available to African American leadership, this office has attracted all of the available political talent in the parish. From the first ever African American elected parish councilman to rising stars on the political landscape, every person who seeks to serve the public is a candidate in this race. More political, governmental and public service experience resides in this race than in any other district across the state. However, as the demographics of Jefferson shift, another African American district may emerge to provide more access to power after the 2020 census.
Until then the most talented group of candidates seek to represent a district that includes parts of Kenner, Metairie, Waggaman, Bridge City, Marrero and Harvey. Legendary JP politicians like Donald Jones, Cedric Floyd and Byron Lee are squaring off with Kenner councilman Gregory Carroll, former state rep Kyle Green and former state Senator Derrick Shepherd and successful businessman Kendall Bussey leads a field of progressive political newcomers like Jedidiah Jackson, Ricky Burns and David Williams. All are talented well intentioned and are seeking to serve the residents of the district.
As a result, this seat is one of the most powerful offices in the metro area. It gives voice to a growing African American population in the parish. While white voters are leaving Jefferson for other areas, the African American population in Jefferson is the fastest growing political base in the state. Whoever emerges from this crowded field may go on to become the first African American elected parish wide.
Look for Derrick Shepherd, Byron Lee and Gregory Carroll to finish in the top spots. But turnout will be the key.