Six of seven municipal elections decided Nov.8; Cottonport police chief runoff Dec. 10

Draper elected Simmesport mayor; Scott re-elected mayor in Cottonport


   Of the seven municipal elections on the Nov. 8 ballot, six were decided that night. Only the Cottonport police chief election -- which had the incumbent facing three challengers -- was forced to the Dec. 10 runoff election.
   While all elections are important to those running and those served by the winners, perhaps the most significant local result last Tuesday was the election of Rev. Leslie Draper III as mayor or Simmesport -- the first African-American mayor in the town’s history and only the second black person elected to lead an Avoyelles Parish municipality. Incumbent Eric Rusk chose not to seek re-election, which left the mayor’s chair open. Three candidates sought the office and Draper won the seat outright in the primary against Frankie Bordelon and Calvin “Ray” Rabalais.
   “This certainly means a lot to me,” Draper said. “I always felt that it was part of my destiny to serve. It is historical and a great opportunity. I am looking forward to working with the aldermen and other town officials to work for the people of Simmesport.”
   Draper said he does not believe the voting reflected a black-white divide in the town. Simmesport is approximately 50-50 in its white-black population breakdown.
   “I believe we had a fair representation from both whites and blacks in our campaign, and that is the way we will represent this town,” Draper said. “We will seek racial balance in all things. We will put it in place in the town offices. That is the way we launched our campaign and the way we will serve as mayor.”
   In the parish’s other mayoral race, incumbent Cottonport Mayor William “Scotty” Scott defeated challenger Louie Laborde to be re-elected to his second term.
   “Over 67 percent of the voters cast their ballot in Cottonport,” Scott said. “I want to thank  everyone who voted.”
   Scott said he realizes people “like to see where their money is being spent and the progress being made with their money. In the next four years, I hope we can put in some new water lines and work on getting a couple more grants.
Runoff in Cottonport
   Police Chief Earnest Anderson Jr. led the field of four candidates --  the parish’s most crowded local race. He will face Steven John Gauthier in the Dec. 10 runoff. The other candidates were  Donald Ray Jenkins and Taronda Jacobs.
   Anderson said he wasn’t surprised to be forced into a runoff due to there being four candidates in the race. He thanked those who voted and said he wants to help the town “with programs like the Neighborhood Watch and programs to help juveniles.” 
   Gauthier also said he expected a runoff and will continue to work hard in his campaigning.
   “I want to modernize the police department, have better training for the officers and put my 42 years of experience to use as the police chief, which would include writing federal grants to get money for CPD.”
   In Hessmer, Kenneth Smith easily won his fourth term as Hessmer’s elected police chief, defeating challengers Donald Lachney and Donald Bernard to avoid a runoff.
   Smith served from 1980 to 1985, when he left to work with the Avoyelles Sheriff’s Office. 
  He returned to the chief’s office when he retired in 2007, serving as interim chief and then being elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. He began his law enforcement career as a patrolman in Hessmer in 1977.
  “I look forward to helping people,” Smith said. “I like community service. If someone has a problem that I don’t have an answer for, I will try to find it for them or point them to the person with the answer.
   “Hessmer is a beautiful town with wonderful people,” he continued. “We don’t have a lot of problems with our people here.”
Alderman races
   There were three alderman seats to be decided, one in Simmesport and two in Cottonport.
   Sherman Bell easily won re-election to the Simmesport District 4 seat over Marsha Strong.
  “I didn’t win, the community did,” Bell said. “The voters chose the person they thought would do the best job for them and the community. I am there to serve the town of Simmesport."
   In Cottonport, four-term incumbent Margaret Prater-Jenkins was easily re-elected over Lorraine Seaberry in District 1. 
  Her sister, Demple Prater, claimed a narrow 13-vote victory over incumbent Brenda Moore Bazile -- which was much closer than the 54 percent to 46 percent result indicated.
  To add icing to the Nov. 8 cake, Prater-Jenkins welcomed her second grandchild into the family.
  “I’m excited about being re-elected because I want to see Cottonport continue to grow,” Prater-Jenkins said. “I have ideas that will help Cottonport in the next four years, but we need to work together with the mayor and police chief for the betterment of Cottonport.”
   With Demple Prater’s election to the council, it is the first time in the town’s history that sisters will be serving together on the elected board.
   “I’m excited and ready to serve Cottonport,” Prater said.
   She noted that she had been considering running for office for a few years and decided this was the right time to try.
   “I want to help Cottonport become a better community.”
Other  elections
   Avoyelles Parish voters followed the statewide result in favoring Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.
   The estimated voter turnout for the parish was 66.3 percent, with 16,581 votes cast. 
  Trump received 11,163 for 67 percent. Clinton had 5,032 votes for 30 percent. The other three percent of votes were cast for various third party candidates, with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 1 percent of the votes with 188.
   Trump carried 36 of the parish’s 49 precincts while Clinton won 12 boxes. There was a tie in one precinct.
   Trump carried Louisiana to claim its eight electoral votes in his successful campaign for the White House.
   In the crowded race for the U.S. Senate seat, Republican John Kennedy received 23 percent of Avoyelles’ votes and Democrat Foster Campbell had 16 percent, which also reflected the statewide results that will send those two candidates to the Dec. 10 runoff.
   U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican, finished third in the parish and in the state balloting.
  Avoyelles also followed suit in the 5th Congressional District race, in which U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham was easily re-elected over challenger Billy Burkette.
   In the two state judicial elections, Avoyelles favored both winners.
  The parish handily supported James “Jimmy” Genovese over Marilyn Castle to fill the seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated by the retirement of Jeannette Knoll of Marksville.
   It more narrowly supported Van Kyzar of Natchitoches over Chris Peters of Jena for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
  There will be no runoff for the District 4 seat on the Public Service Commission -- held until this year by the late Clyde Holloway. Holloway had chosen not to seek re-election.
  Mike Francis did not get more than 50 percent of the vote in Avoyelles, but did get enough in the rest of the district to avoid a runoff with incumbent Mary Werner on Dec. 10.
  Of the six proposed constitutional amendments, Avoyelles supported Proposition 1 and so did the state. The parish and the state both said no to Proposition 2 and Proposition 3.
   Avoyelles agreed with the state overall in approving Proposition 4. It broke ranks with the overall state decision by narrowly defeating Proposition 5, but returned to track the state decision in rejecting Proposition 6.