Judging by the talk from across the media spectrum, no one saw a Rick Chargois endorsement of Mark Garber coming. No one. Not even the homeless guys in Parc Lafayette. Least of all us.
In our November print edition, expect our hasty prognostications to indicate that Chargois, who by press time had played his endorsement cards very close to his suspenders, had strongest electoral crossover with Chad Leger. While we did not try to read Chargois’ mind, you could be forgiven for deducing from our analysis that he would likely endorse Leger if he endorsed anyone at all. Both represented old guard standards of law enforcement. Both inveighed on the “sanctuary city” issue — introduced into the election by City Marshal Brian Pope — and promised to reverse the “policy” that “created” the “problem.” There aren’t enough scare-quotes in the world to cover that issue briefly.
For his part, Chargois acknowledged that he and Garber don’t necessarily line up on everything. Garber derided the “sanctuary city” issue as a non-starter and a political stunt, for instance.
“We may not agree on every issue, but we certainly agree on the fact that protecting our parish and our families is the most important part of our sheriff’s job. I believe Mark Garber is the man do to that,” Chargois wrote. “He will bring a sense of professionalism, courtesy and service to the office. Mark Garber has my support and my endorsement.”
Chargois’ numbers swelled late with a run of TV ads, robocalls and media appearances just before curtain call, and the former state trooper likely poached support from folks disillusioned by the escalating mud fight between camps Leger and Garber. He finished with 11 percent of the vote, behind Leger at 39 percent and Garber with 46 percent. John Rogers captured 4 percent.
Beyond gross figures, it’s difficult to divine what sort of vote count Chargois’ endorsement will deliver to Garber. The bulk of Chargois’ primary voter haul was likely comprised of electoral dalliers and not hardened Chargois believers. What sheer number of Chargois voters will be steered to Garber is thus unclear.
Of course, if you’re Mark Garber, you take momentum anywhere you can get it. If the same electorate turns up Nov. 21 as did on Oct. 24, Garber needs just four percentage points and change to swing his way to make the coveted majority required to win the sheriff’s badge. But that doesn’t mean his victory is yet presumptive. There’s 15 points up for grabs among Chargois’ and John Rogers’ orphaned supporters. Election dynamics can shift dramatically from the wilds of a Louisiana jungle primary to the either/or of a general election binary.
Both Leger and Garber have scored endorsements from parties outside the election. The police chiefs of Carencro and Duson gave Garber the proverbial stamp of approval. Leger announced an endorsement from GatorPAC, Col. Rob Maness’ “constitutionally” conservative Super PAC — Leger’s ironic disregard for the Fourth Amendment notwithstanding. As it happens, GatorPAC endorsed Chargois in the primary.
What’s yet to be seen is whether and how Rogers will weigh in. Our take is that Rogers, at least temperamentally and philosophically, aligns closest with Garber, but that doesn’t mean an endorsement is in the tank. The two have had a chilly relationship on the campaign trail, though in a phone interview with The Independent, Rogers makes it clear that regardless of the election’s outcome and the campaign's political frostbite, he wants to continue working at the sheriff’s office in his capacity as a litigation specialist.
“My campaign has always been about moving the sheriff’s office forward,” Rogers said. “I’ve been here for 16 years. These people are my family, and I want to see a strong department.”
Picking a side could jeopardize his employment should the other candidate win, so it’s possible that Rogers declines to publicly support either Garber or Leger. On the other hand, Rogers strikes us as a genuinely invested law enforcement professional who would put his job security at risk to do what he thinks is right.
Given the Chargois news, we’re hesitant to predict what Rogers will do at this point, but he did tell The IND that he’d have his decision made by Monday (Nov. 2).
With the way the sheriff’s race has run thus far, it’s best to prepare to be surprised.