Stagg challenges Durel

by Walter Pierce

"He needs to be held accountable to the voters, and if nobody else will step up, well then obviously I needed to."

Lafayette Democrat Mike Stagg qualified Thursday morning to take on two-term Republican City-Parish President Joey Durel in the Oct. 22 election.

An independent information technology consultant by vocation and former newspaper editor and reporter, the 59-year-old Stagg is a long shot to unseat Durel. "The ultimate thing was, it appears that Mr. Durel was going to get in without opposition, and the notion of somebody getting elected to basically a 12-year term ... was just repugnant to me," Stagg says. "He needs to be held accountable to the voters, and if nobody else will step up, well then obviously I needed to."

Stagg is running on a platform of better managing Lafayette's growth and maximizing - and more vigorously marketing - the parish's unique cultural offerings. And he acknowledges his status as underdog. "Four years ago he didn't have opposition; there was no discussion about his record or the future of the parish," Stagg says of Durel, who is seeking a third and final turn as the top elected official in Lafayette Parish. "This doesn't speak very well about the quality of civic discourse in our parish. There's no consensus in Lafayette because there's no discussion in Lafayette, and what I want to do with this campaign is provoke that discussion."

A Eunice native and longtime Lafayette resident, Stagg is an at-large member of the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee. He says he doesn't anticipate much in the way of financial resources from the state party, adding that he plans to harness the Internet to reach voters. He has also openly challenged Durel to a series of debates.

"[Durel] hasn't been answerable to the voters since 2003," Stagg adds. "I think he owes them this conversation, and I think he needs to defend his record. I want to hold his record up; I think there's a case for him to be fired. But ultimately what the election's about is what's the future of the parish and where are we going to go with it? He hasn't talked about that. This issue is too important to be left to guys having coffee, which is what Durel and his cronies have basically been doing for eight years - that's how the future of this parish is being decided."