Big election year gets early start in St. Gabriel

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

Iberville Parish will warm up to the major 2011 election year with the municipal election in St. Gabriel in April.

This fall, all state and parish officials – including the governor and the parish president – will be on the ballot.

There is no word yet on whether St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace, indicted in an FBI sting this fall, will be on the ballot when candidates sign up to run for his city's offices – mayor, police chief and five City Council seats. Grace so far is the only person to serve as mayor of St. Gabriel, incorporated in 1994.

Qualifying is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, February 9-11 for the Saturday, April 2 primary election. A run-off election, if needed, will be held Saturday, April 30.

St. Gabriel residents have until March 2 to register to vote in the primary, and can participate in early voting on March 19 and from March 21-26.

Qualifying for state and parish seats is set for Wednesday though Thursday, September 6-8, for the Saturday, October 22 primary election. Offices on the ballot will include governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member, District 17 Louisiana Senate Seat, District 58 and District 60 House seats, parish president, 13 Iberville Parish Council seats, sheriff, assessor, clerk of court, coroner, justice of the peace and constable.

The state's three-term limit on legislators will catch one member of the Iberville Parish delegation, state Sen. Robert Marionneaux. State Rep. Karen St. Germain and state Rep. Elton M. Aubert remain eligible to run for re-election.

Last year, voters passed the first amendment to the Iberville Parish Home Rule Charter to remove the three-term term limits on the parish president and Parish Council members.

J. Mitchell Ourso Jr., the parish's first and so-far only parish president, promoted the term limit repeal, saying he wanted a fourth and final full term in the office. (Ourso served an initial two-year term when the charter went into effect in October 1997.) In all four campaigns for the office, he has had opposition.

Three parish councilmen who oppose Ourso – Salaris Butler of Seymourville, Howard Oubre Jr. of Plaquemine and Leonard “Buck” Jackson of St. Gabriel – opposed the repeal.

Oubre and Jackson told the POST/SOUTH last week they would be on the ballot this fall.

“I will start my campaign in two months,” Oubre said. But, he added, “I may be campaigning against the parish president and the parish council chair. I think we need some changes in both areas.”

Oubre said he and other members of the council had considered running for parish president before the term limit repeal.

“After long, long thought and talking to people in my district, I will be a candidate,” Jackson said. “...People who represent African American communities need to be recognized. I don't think they are now.”

Butler said he is considering running for re-election, but also is looking at a higher office, possibly assessor or the state Legislature, depending on how the new reapportionment lines are drawn.

Both the Legislature and the Parish Council have a thin time-line to pass new reapportionment plans based on the 2010 Census figures (due in February) and have them cleared by the U. S. Justice Department before the start of qualifying in September.

The general election is set for Saturday, November 19.