Sparks flying in District 24 Senate race

by Heather Miller

The animosity between incumbent state Sen. Elbert Guillory and Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins is old news, but which candidate will etch out a win Nov. 19 with voter turnout estimated at 10 percent?

Incumbent Disrict 24 state Sen. Elbert Guillory touts a new McDonald's in Grand Coteau as a proven record of job creation, while Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins, the man vying for the same District 24 seat he held for 15 years, takes full credit for creating the state's community college and juvenile justice systems.

The eye-popping, 90-minute exchange Monday afternoon on UL Lafayette's campus between Guillory and Cravins offered tenebrous insight into how the candidates view themselves and their records, but gave voters even more knowledge on how the two view each other.

According to The Advertiser, the attack-style debate included multiple references to Cravins' leadership in Opelousas in light of scathing audits on the city and the Opelousas Housing Authority, while Cravins brought up Guillory's own ethical dilemmas and characterized the incumbent as a do-nothing legislator who's out of touch with constituents:

"They have found a pattern of mismanagement, a pattern of giving contracts and money to cronies, to friends and family members. It's all there. Compare the records," Guillory said. "This is the record we're talking about right there. Honesty and integrity? None."

"He's always been dishonest, he continues to be dishonest and he continues to not tell the truth," Cravins said.

The jabs have been repeated by both candidates since long before the race began, but the bold and mud-filled campaigns of Guillory and Cravins still have political insiders guessing which candidate will secure the seat.

Guillory led the primary with 46.4 percent of the votes, with Cravins raking in a close 40.72 percent. The third District 24 candidate Kelly Scott, who received 12.9 percent of the vote Oct. 22, has since thrown his support to Cravins despite announcing post-election that he would not be endorsing anyone in the race.

One north Lafayette politico says Guillory has two big advantages in St. Landry Parish in the form of Sheriff Bobby Guidroz and Opelousas City Marshal Paul Mouton, both of whom share a disdain for the Cravins dynasty. With Guidroz winning re-election Oct. 22, one insider says Guidroz and Mouton are "trying to unite all of St. Landry against Don Cravins, but can that result in a victory for Guillory? I don't know."

Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret predicts that voter turnout will not exceed 10 percentĀ  in the Nov. 19 election, which keeps the District 24 race as one of the most unpredictable on the ballot.