Cover Story

Money, Money, Money

by Walter Pierce and Leslie Turk

State Rep. Joel Robideaux was elected to succeed City-Parish President Joey Durel.
Photo by Robin May

In analyzing the outcome of the city-parish president race, it comes down to financial reserves and how one spends them.

It’s fair to say that for many voters and political observers in Lafayette Parish, State Rep. Joel Robideaux’s 12-point victory over LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley was a stunner. Robideaux won by more than 6,000 votes in a low-turnout election, and few savvy political watchers in the parish anticipated such a wide margin in Robideaux’s favor.

What it comes down to, according to sources we spoke with, is financial resources and how they were allocated as Election Day neared. Or, to put it more precisely, the Stanley campaign appeared to be running out of cash in the days before the election, preventing it from conducting a big last-minute media blitz on TV, radio and in print. Robideaux, on the other hand, was all over the airwaves, even on Election Day. One observer tells us Robideaux had two to three times as many TV commercials and radio ads in the final week of the primary campaign than did Stanley, who had little television presence in the last 10 days of the election.

Additionally, Stanley was distracted from his game plan when he was forced to produce a robocall to counter an ugly, misleading push poll conducted by telephone among parish voters about two weeks before the election. We still can’t figure out who commissioned the poll, but it was dirty campaigning incarnate.

Robideaux was also helped by real estate developer Glenn Stewart, a very rich man with a very deep grudge against Stanley and his boss, Joey Durel. Stewart acted as a malignant agent on Robideaux’s behalf, especially in the final week of the campaign, bankrolling the Louisiana Victory Fund, which attacked Stanley with abandon, taking out full-page — and misleading to the point of lying — ads against Stanley just a couple of days before voters headed to the polls.

And Stanley, according to our sources, was further hurt by polling that showed him up by as much as 8 points a few weeks before the election, which, our observers claim, had the Stanley campaign jogging victoriously to the finish line when it should have been sprinting. Conversely, the poll scared Robideaux’s supporters — mainly current and former elected officials who had put their collective weight behind him; observers say his backers had been working harder than the candidate all along — and they were finally able to light a fire under Robideaux by convincing him the race was slipping away. In the home stretch, they started influencing some of the strategy, and Robideaux and his loyal foot soldiers eventually outworked the Stanley campaign.

Robideaux did better among black voters, too, but not significantly, and we don’t believe the election for city-parish president was a referendum on Durel’s three terms in office.

It was a trifecta that did Stanley in: fewer resources, poor allocation of those resources and misleading polling that caused him to coast the final furlong. — Walter Pierce and Leslie Turk