St. Gabriel voters head to polls Saturday

Deidre Cruse

With the elections of mayor, police chief and City Council at stake, nearly 11 percent of St. Gabriel voters cast early ballots ahead of Saturday's primary elections.

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in precincts 10, 11 and 12 for the final decision on head-to-head races in the mayoral and police chief elections. Thirteen candidates are running for the five seats on the St. Gabriel City Council; a run-off election, if needed, is scheduled for April 30.

According to the Registrar of Voters' Office, 235 of the city's 2,173 registered voters cast early ballots.

Mayor George L. Grace Sr. is facing a challenge from the Rev. Lionel Johnson Jr., whose father mounted a serious race against Grace four years ago. (The senior Johnson took more than 47 percent of the vote in a run-off election.)

Grace is emphasizing his accomplishments as the city's first and, so far, only mayor, and asking voters to give him the “presumption of innocence” on federal racketeering, bribery and other charges stemming from an FBI sting operation.

Johnson, a former city councilman and former principal of East Iberville School, is pressing a case for “new vision and new leadership. He resigned from a state Civil Service job at the Department of Education to make the race.

Incumbent Police Chief Kevin “Butchie” Ambeau and former Chief Patrick Nelson – the only two men to have held the office since the city was incorporated in the early 1990s – are facing off for a fifth time.

Candidates for City Council include incumbents Deborah “Debbie” Alexander, Flora Jean Danielfield, Freddie Carl Frazier Sr., Melvin Hasten Sr. and Ralph “Big Guy” Johnson Sr., and challengers Joseph Allen Jr., Juan Vashion Darville, Isiah Gilmore Sr., Keith “Lil Pest” Gordon, Kyle E. Grace and Kenya L. Nelson.