HARDY RIDES UNITY MESSAGE TO VICTORY Running with the campaign slogan "The man for all the people," Rickey Hardy always presented himself as a unifying figure throughout his bid for the District 44 state House seat against City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams. On Saturday, Hardy won the seat with 57 percent of the vote. The district's minority white vote played a key role in Hardy's victory. District 44's voting population is 66 percent African-American and 31 percent white. Among the seven precincts with the heaviest majority of white voters, Hardy captured a whopping 77 percent of the vote. Hardy trailed Williams 57 percent to 43 percent in the 11 precincts with the heaviest makeup of black voters. Local attorney Lester Gauthier, a former political analyst on KPEL radio who lives in District 44, says that Williams capturing only 20 percent of the white vote was too big a setback for him to overcome ' "80-20 is pretty strong for anybody in any community," Gauthier says. He notes that in the primary election, the majority of the white vote was split between the race's third and fourth place finishers, Terry Landry and Fred Prejean, making their supporters the key swing vote for the runoff election.
"After the primary, the majority of harvest-able voters in this district were the white voters," Gauthier says. "And Chris Williams was unacceptable to the majority of white voters. That's what the numbers show." Overall turnout for the election was 28 percent, compared to 36 percent in the Oct. 20 primary.
In the weeks leading up to Saturday's election, Williams won over the support of outgoing District 44 state Rep. Wilfred Pierre as well as two of his former opponents in the race, Derriel McCorvey and Terry Landry. Williams' camp also tried to make an issue of Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel's support of Hardy, noting that Durel, who lives in the affluent River Ranch community, was out of touch with the needs of the much more blue collar District 44. Durel's endorsement of Hardy noted that he was the only candidate remaining in the race that was a "team player." Gauthier says it appears that "all of the endorsements had little to no impact" on the outcome of the race. ... CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN IBERIA SHERIFF'S ELECTION The election of Louis Ackal as Iberia Parish's new sheriff is the next act in a dramatic power struggle that has been playing out over the last four years. Ackal, a retired state trooper, rode into office with 52 percent of the vote. He was backed by a cadre of New Iberia city police officers who have never forgiven former Mayor Ruth Fontenot and Sheriff Sid Hebert for disbanding the city department. Backed by the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce in the summer of 2004, Fontenot moved the city and parish toward consolidation of law enforcement services. That fall, she and mayor pro tem Nolan Pellerin both lost their bids for re-election based on community anger about dissolving the city police department.
Saturday's election of Ackal over David Landry, Hebert's chief of staff, reflects the ideological split that still divides the city and parish. In an effort to heal the discord, Ackal says after he takes office in July of 2008, he will renegotiate the contract between the sheriff's office and the city, as well as beef up community policing and hire new deputies from the local area. ... BOASSO OUT, BUT NOT OVER State Sen. Walter Boasso, a Democrat from Chalmette who is riding into the non-public sunset after coming in third following this year's gubernatorial primary, probably won't be a completely absent face from the political scene in the near future. Capitol press members were invited last week by Boasso for dinner and drinks at Mansur's. While he told The Advocate recently that he isn't necessarily interested in Congress, he's avoiding directly answering questions about his future gubernatorial ambitions, so don't throw away your Jindal cutouts and Tide boxes just yet. ... MELANCON HAS NEW COS Joe Bonfiglio, who previously served as press secretary for U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat from Wisconsin, has taken over as chief of staff for Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Democrat who represents portions of Acadiana. Casey O'Shea, Melancon's former chief of staff, has accepted the position of national field director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and started the high-profile job last week. He is the second Melancon staffer, following former press secretary Ellery Gould, to be scooped up by the DCCC, which is the official campaign arm of the national party. For Bonfiglio, the new job is certainly a step up and places him firmly in the realm of public servant. A congressional chief of staff is considered to be the top executive in an elected official's infrastructure, with salaries nearing or topping the $100,000 range. They often take the lead on policy and hiring decisions, and traditionally assume key campaign roles, like manager, when re-election nears. Bonfiglio will officially go to work for the 3rd Congressional District later this month.
Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler