Low voter turnout expected in metro area elections

A mayoral election in Kenner and the contest to replace St. Tammany Parish’s disgraced former coroner are among the high-profile items on area ballots Saturday, along with Slidell City Council elections, a special election to fill an open seat on the St. Charles Parish Council and a handful of tax initiatives.

Runoffs, if necessary, will be held May 3.

The Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office is projecting low turnout, 15 percent or less, in the four area parishes that have elections, spokeswoman Meg Casper said. Forecasts call for a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms, and weather can be a factor in turnout.

There are no statewide initiatives on the ballot and only two parishwide races — the St. Tammany coroner election and a St. Bernard Parish hospital millage — in the metro area.

Those two parishes had the highest number of early votes, according to Secretary of State’s Office records, with 3,408 ballots cast in St. Tammany and 1,325 in St. Bernard. Jefferson Parish had 949 early votes, and St. Charles had 709.

In St. Tammany, four doctors are vying to succeed Peter Galvan as coroner: gynecologist Rob Muller, retired emergency care doctor Charles Preston, primary care doctor Adrian Talbot and psychiatrist Leanne Truehart. All four are Republicans. Muller, Preston and Talbot are from Slidell; Truehart is from Mandeville.

In Kenner, incumbent Mayor Mike Yenni faces two challengers: Walter Bennetti, head of Citizens for a Better Kenner, and Al Morella, a retired longshoreman and clerk at the Port of New Orleans.

Yenni, nephew of former Jefferson Parish Michael J. Yenni, has been mayor since 2010. Bennetti and Morella have been outspoken critics of his administration.

By contrast, Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan drew no opposition; neither did Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith. But the two at-large seats on the City Council and five of the seven district seats are being contested.

Incumbents Landon Cusimano and Kim Harbison are running for second terms in their at-large seats, along with challengers Lionel Hicks, who is term-limited in his District A seat, and newcomer Brad Rummel.

Jonathan Johnson, who serves on Slidell’s Board of Zoning Adjustment, and Glynn Pichon, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, are running in District A, an open seat.

District C features a rematch between incumbent Buddy Lloyd and Warren Crockett, who held the seat before him.

District D, where Joe Fraught is term-limited, has drawn three candidates: his daughter, Kristie Fraught; Susie Morris, wife of former Mayor Ben Morris; and Val Vanney, who ran in the District C race four years ago.

District E incumbent Sam Caruso is being challenged by retired business owner Pete O’Connell and optometrist Keith Sehon.

District F incumbent Jay Newcomb has drawn one opponent, Irma Russell, a code enforcement officer for St. Tammany Parish.

In St. Charles Parish, the at-large Division B Parish Council seat is up for grabs following the resignation of Clayton “Snookie’’ Faucheaux last year. The candidates are Julia Fisher-Perrier, of Luling, who currently holds the 7th District seat; Des Allemands contractor Stanley Hebert; and Jarvis Lewis, of Luling, who stepped down as a parish deputy tax assessor to run.

St. Bernard Parish voters will decide whether to approve a one-year, 30-mill tax for expanded medical care at St. Bernard Parish Hospital. The tax is projected to bring in an estimated $9 million, much of which will be spent on hiring health care specialists and implementing an electronic medical records system, according to hospital officials. Critics of the tax say hospital administrators have poorly managed the money they have been given previously — a 10-year, 8-mill tax was approved three years ago — and shouldn’t be rewarded with more. The owner of a house valued at $200,000, with a homestead exemption, would pay $375 a year if the tax passes.

Abita Springs voters will decide whether to renew a 15-year, 5-mill tax for streets. If passed, it would allow the city to issue about $500,000 in bonds. The millage, which is not subject to homestead exemption, would cost the owner of a $150,000 home $75 per year.

Residents of St. Tammany Recreation District No. 1, which includes Mandeville and much of the surrounding area, will decide whether to renew a 3.5-mill tax to support operations and maintenance for the district that is headquartered at Pelican Park. The tax funds about two-thirds of the district’s annual operating budget of $3 million and costs the owner of a $150,000 home, with a homestead exemption, $26.25 per year.

Editor’s Note: This story was altered on April 5, 2014 to correct the date of Mike Yenni’s term as mayor.