Nathan Stubbs

District 31 could see crowded field of candidates

by Nathan Stubbs

It’s been less than 48 hours since state Rep. Don Trahan announced he was resigning from the legislature to take a new job with the state department of education, but there's already a crowded field of candidates lining up to succeed him. Yesterday, House Speaker Jim Tucker called a Nov. 4 special election for the District 31 state House seat, coinciding with the presidential election. A run-off, if necessary, would be held Dec. 6. Candidate qualifying begins Monday and runs till 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Six potential candidates are either seriously considering the race or have already announced their intention to run. Candidates definitely in the race include attorney Nancy Landry, who lost to Trahan by a slim 33 vote margin in last year’s District 31 race, and Maurice businessman Troy Theriot, who previously worked on Trahan’s campaign. Another likely contender is Republican state party vice chairman Charlie Buckels, who ran for the District 31 seat in 2003, losing to Trahan by only 13 votes in a runoff election. Buckels considered another run against Trahan last year, but his ties to the state party kept him from getting involved in a race against an incumbent Republican. Reached this morning, Buckels appeared to be leaning toward running this time. “It’s got to be the right thing for the district and the right thing for me but I can tell you that it’s somehting that I am very, very interested in,” he says.

Also giving serious thought to the race are three former Lafayette city-parish councilmen: Rob Stevenson, Randy Menard and Lenwood Broussard. Menard could not be reached this morning for comment but others who have talked to him indicate he is likely in. Stevenson, who has also been eyeing a run in 2010 for Mike Michot’s term-limited state senate seat, says he is still weighing his options. Broussard says he is “about 90 percent” sure he will run. “I’ve got one foot in and I’m about to step in with the other one,” he says.

A lifelong Democrat who switched his party affiliation to Independent last year, Broussard could be the only non-Republican in the race. Nancy Landry ran as a conservative Independent last year but planned to be in the parish courthouse this morning to switch her party affiliation to Republican. Parish Democratic Party Executive Committee Chairman John Bernhardt sees the door being wide open for a Democrat to win centrist and left-leaning voters while Republicans split their vote. He says he is in talks with a few potential candidates from his party. "I think Nancy going from Independent to Republican will encourage a Democrat to get in," Bernhardt says. "I'd be very surprised If we don't have a formidable candidate in this race."

District 31 — which spans over south Lafayette, Scott, Milton and Maurice — has trended conservative but registered voters in the district are about 38 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican and 25 percent Independent and other party. Lafayette Parish residents make up 80 percent of the district’s voters, with the remaining 20 percent in northern Vermilion Parish.