I have to admit that I am a bit shocked and amazed by the people of Terrebonne Parish--but that is only pleasantly so. By a slim majority, as I would have thought, Michel Claudet has defeated Jerry Larpenter in the race for parish president. Wait, I will say that again. Claudet beat Larpenter! Hell yeah!!!
I am energized by this victory for a few reasons, and for the record, none of them are personal indictments of Mr. Larpenter. But here they are...
First, as a political consultant involved in two races in Terrebonne, I watched the parish president's race very closely, and from the outset, I was troubled by some of the things that I heard from the soon-to-retire sheriff. Notwithstanding a comment about his own skepticism of inmates finding salvation, I was first turned off by Mr. Larpenter's proposal to sink a ship at the foot of the Houma Navigational Canal. The scheme was so controversial that all parties involved--the levee authority, the council and the sheriff's office--backed away from it quietly. And that move was probably for a good reason; the idea lack any real scientific merit and demonstrated a serious deficiency on the part of our leaders. I thought to myself that, if this guy's best idea for averting such a disaster was so inept, then how effectively could he truly be in handling other areas of our governance?
That answer came later. During a speech in the Johnson Ridge area of northern Terrebonne, I listened in total disbelief as this gentleman pitched an inmate labor program that would "save this parish millions". The only image that I could conjure was one of young black men in orange prison garb, trimming parks and painting buildings. I was right in that assumption, insofar as Mr. Larpenter cautioned his audience to not be surprised when we saw an inmate on a backhoe...And, silly me, I thought the chain gangs vanish a generation ago.
The two platforms--one questionable, the other regressive--demonstrated, at least to me, that this was not the type of leadership that Houma needed at this time. What's more, as the run-up to the general election began, the talk of promises and the flow of dollars troubled me, as well. It was a sign that, if elected, a Larpenter administration would proffer no difference from the old, corrupt ways that have defined our region and state.
On the other hand, I had a candid conversation with Mr. Claudet, and it left me feeling hopeful. I contacted him, after a friend of mine expressed fear that the Claudet camp was not preparing for an onslaught of forces amassing on the sheriff's side. To that end, Mr. Claudet informed me that, in the days following the October primary, he was bombarded with offers for assistance--at a price. When he rejected those nefarious power brokers, they strutted shamelessly to the other side. (How typical.) Perhaps the best thing that Mr. Claudet could have done was to never take legion with these people; his decision to not pay for the delivery of votes has made him an unencumbered leader, ready to take the helm without the suffocating tugs from power brokers.
Many believe that Claudet, a lawyer and entrepreneur, will represent a fresh and visionary perspective in the leadership of Terrebonne Parish. To be sure, he is not the only businessman who has ever served in this capacity. Think Duet or Bergeron, and remember that both of those individuals had contended that they would apply a "business approach" to running the government. The unfortunate thing is, government is not a business, and the public good is usually at odds with the capitalist motive. That said, I trust Claudet will take the time in this transition period to acquaint himself with this fact and, in January, take his elected position with a desire to lead with Terrebonne in a new way.
I also would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Peter Lambert for his victory in the race for the council seat of District #9, and I would also like to applaud the people of that district for making the best choice possible.
Axiom Strategy Advisors, LLC, worked with Christopher Chaisson in the primary race, and when he lost, it was learned that rumors of fraud might have cost him votes. Subsequently, we advised Mr. Chaisson to make a careful consideration in his endorsement, which he did so. Mr. Chaisson's endorsement of Lambert was made independently, and the consultancy was proud to stand with him on that support.
The people of District #9 deserved a leader whose first passion was one of service. They deserved someone who would fight tirelessly for their coastal communities--not use them as a springboard to other ambitions. They deserved someone who would listen and work for the concerns of even the least well-off man along those bayous. Indeed, Mr. Lambert will do just that, and thankfully enough, the people understand that.