Mayor Gulotta posts narrow victory in Plaquemine race

Deidre Cruse

Plaquemine Mayor Mark A. Gulotta won a fifth term, taking 79-vote victory over opponent Jimmy Ramirez in Saturday’s election.

Parishwide, more than half the 21,234 registered voters went to the polls. Secretary of State Jay Dardenne said the parish had the highest turnout in the state, The Advocate reported.

Election returns, however, showed a wide variance in the turnout for individual races – from 27 percent in the Plaquemine’s mayor’s race to 75 percent in the Grosse Tete mayor’s race. In the race on the ballot parishwide, the Louisiana Supreme Court contest, 43 percent voted.

On a day generally good for incumbents, three lost their bids for re-election to justice of the peace or constables posts, and two other face November 4 run-offs.

Incumbent Plaquemine Selectmen Ralph Stassi Jr. and Timothy L. “Timmy” Martinez claimed easy victories over their single opponents in districts III and V.

In Grosse Tete, Mayor Michael D. Chauffe Sr. and Police Chief Tommy Dardenne prevailed, as did two of the three incumbent aldermen. Kyle Booksh will replace incumbent Larry David.

In Rosedale, Police Chief Mike Sparks won an easy victory over opponent Mark James. Dana Nereaux Alexander claimed an open seat on the Board of Aldermen.

Despite negative campaigning by a Baton Rouge opponent, Catherine D. “Kitty” Kimball of Ventress won an easy re-election to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

By virtue of her seniority, Kimball will become the state’s first woman chief justice.

Republicans overwhelmingly chose incumbent U. S. Rep. Rodney Alexander of Quitman in the

5th Congressional District race in the parish’s first-ever Republican primary election.

Alexander, who represents about half of Iberville Parish, has no Democratic opponent. By winning the Republican primary, he won re-election to Congress.

Plaquemine races

Voters awarded Gulotta 1,483 votes (51.37 percent) and Ramirez 1,404 votes (48.63 percent). Only 27 percent of the city’s 10,770 voters cast ballots in the race.

“We worked really hard to get the vote out,” Gulotta said. Usually, he noted, a large early vote means a large turnout on election day.

“That’s usually an indication of how the election would go, but not this time,” he said.

The incumbent mayor won on the strength of a heavy early vote, which gave him a 119-vote lead before the precincts opened Saturday. On election day, Ramirez carried eight of the city’s 14 precincts.

All three Baton Rouge television stations reversed the tally and showed Ramirez the winner, causing reverse reactions among supporters in both camps.

“My phone rang off the hook,” Gulotta said.

“I feel great,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful to the people for giving me this term.”

The mayor said there was “definitely a scare” over the high utility bills that went out last month. Gulotta said much information followed.

“I was elected to tell people the truth, not necessarily what they ant to hear,” he said.

Ramirez, a former Plaquemine city business manager but a first-time candidate, said he was proud to have come so close to winning the election.

“I’m extremely proud of my campaign, considering I had no local politicians endorsing me,” he said.

“I promised all along I would run a fair and clean campaign. I did not buy any votes,” Ramirez said, adding that he was not accusing anyone of doing so.

“I want to thank the people who voted for me, who put their confidence in me,” he said.

Incumbent Ralph Stassi Jr. received 368 votes (nearly 77 percent) to defeat former city council member Herbert Jefferson Sr., who received 111 votes (23 percent). Some 58 percent of the 829 voters eligible to vote in District III participated. Jefferson had made high electricity bills his main issue.

Some 68 percent of the 884 eligible voters participated in the District V race, where Timothy L. “Timmy” Martinez won 371 votes (61.42 percent) to defeat Joel J. Ducote, a Republican who briefly served as an appointed selectman. Ducote received 233 votes (38.58 percent.)

Grosse Tete elctions

Four years ago, Chauffe won a two-vote victory over then nine-term Grosse Tete Mayor Philip ‘Tunnie” Sarullo. In Saturday’s rematch between the two men, Chauffe widened his lead to 230 votes (58.52 percent) to 163 votes (41.48 percent) for Sarullo. Seventy-five percent of the village’s 523 voters participated.

Chafffe said he felt humbled by the victory.

“I will lead the town in a forward direction,” the mayor said. “I am anxious to start work on our new projects that we have in the works...I am anxious to work with the new council members.”

Chauffe said he would work with his constituents, whether they voted for him or not.

“If they need help, I’m going to help them,” he said.

Grosse Tete Police Chief Dardenne posted an even larger lead over his opponent, Lawrence H. Pate Sr.. Dardenne won 257 votes (66.41 percent), while Pate received 130 votes (33.59 percent).

In the five-candidate race for the three posts on the Grosse Tete Board of Aldermen, incumbent Juanita J. Hill led the race with 231 votes (23.52 percent), followed by incumbent C. Richard David with 199 votes (20.26 percent) and Booksh with 195 (19.86 percent).

Incumbent Larry David, who received 180 votes (18.33 percent) and James “Bobby” Blanchard, with 177 votes (18.02 percent), did not make the cut.

Richard David and Booksh are the only two local Republicans to hold elective office in Iberville Parish.

Rosedale Races

Rosedale Police Chief Sparks won 287 votes (73.78 percent) to beat opponent Mark James, who received 102 votes (26.22 percent). Sixty-five percent of Rosedale’s 600 voters participated.

In the race for Rosedale alderman from Division C, Alexander claimed a decisive victory over Jeffery Hill. Alexander received 258 votes (67.54 percent) to 124 votes (32.46 percent) for Hill.

Multi-Parish Races

In the race for the Supreme Court, Kimball received 7,387 votes (80.49 percent) in Iberville Parish, to 1,791 (19.51 percent) for First Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Jefferson D. Hughes.

Throughout the 5th Supreme Court District, Kimball won 113,939 votes (64.66 percent) to 62,269 (35.34 percent) for Hughes.

Congressman Rodney Alexander, winning his fourth term, fared even better against a 26-year-old unknown, Andrew Clack of Holly Ridge.

Local Republicans gave Alexander 389 votes (88 percent) and Clack 53 votes (12 percent). Alexander neared the 90 percent mark throughout the 5th Congressional District, taking 27,818 votes to 3,202 for Clack.

Justice of the Peace Races

In Ward 1, in the White Castle area, incumbent Justice of the Peace Roland “Roach” Fremin claimed a first-primary victory over two opponents. He received 790 votes (56 percent) to 436 (31 percent) for Brent Barbier and 183 (13 percent) for Janelle Poche.

In Ward 2, in the St. Gabriel and St. Louis Road area near Plaquemine, incumbent Justice of the Peace Jimmy Green III ran first in a four-candidate field, but faces a run-off with challenger Alexander Wright Sr.

Green received 481 votes (34.93 percent); Wright 440 votes (31.95 percent0, Joseph Oliver Jr., 255 votes (18.52 percent), and Blanche Baylock, 201 votes (14.60 percent).

In Ward 3, in the Plaquemine area, incumbent Justice of the Peace Steve “Pine” Smith won a substantial victory with 1,131 votes (72.78 percent) over opponent Angela “Coach” Gros, who received 423 votes (27.22 percent).

In Ward 5, also in the Plaquemine area, Incumbent Janice Hall Pugh narrowly lost to Justin Kane Mendoza. Mendoza took exactly 1,000 votes (50.68 percent) to 973 votes (49.32 percent) for Pugh.

Constables Races

In Ward 1, Joseph “Joe” Richard won decisively over incumbent Constable Keith “Keety” Kember. Richard received 863 votes (62.58 percent) to 516 votes (37.42 percent).

In Ward 2, incumbent Constable Kevin Brock faces a run-off with Lloyd “Big Red” Snowten, who led the three-candidate race. Snowten received 550 votes (40.44 percent); Brock, 423 votes (31.10 percent), and Keith Edward Gordon 387 votes (28.46 percent).

In Ward 5, incumbent Constable Ronald “Ronnie” Hebert prevailed with 1,184 votes (61.80 percent) over challenger Robert “Bobby” Johnson, who received 732 votes (38.20 percent).

In Ward 6, Larry Johnson defeated incumbent Constable Eugene Simpson in a vote of 1,015 (58.37 percent) to 724 (41.63 percent).