When most people think of Labor Day, they conjure up images of summer’s last gasp, barbecues and a last splash in the pool.
But for political junkies during an election season, a cold beer and some home-cooked red beans and rice at the Honey Hush Lounge on West Pershing Street fit the bill nicely as a dozen candidates for local office descended on the bar for a meet-and-greet Monday evening.
“They do the forums at the Sliman, but some people don’t want to go over there,” said Larry Lavine, owner of the Honey Hush. “This is just a meet-and-greet, to let people see who’s running. It’s not a forum or a debate. It’s a chance for people to get to meet the candidates.”
Master of Ceremonies James Knatt said he was encouraged to see so many people show up to hear the candidates speak.
“We just wanted the candidates to come out so people can see a face,” Knatt said. “If you’re here today, you have a voice. And you need to use it on Oct. 12.”
Of the three candidates for Iberia Parish president, only incumbent Larry Richard made an appearance, still sweating after a long day ringing doorbells and shaking hands across the parish.
“There’s 70,000 people in Iberia Parish, so I don’t know if I am going to get to all of them,” Richard joked.
On a more serious note, he said that he feels his administration has kept the parish on the right path, growing the parish’s reserve fund and keeping costs down even with the economic downturn that has shadowed most of his first term.
“We have a good council and we are moving in the right direction,” Richard said. “We know where we are and what we need to do to keep businesses here and bring new businesses in.”
Three of the six candidates for Iberia Parish Sheriff showed up. Tommy Romero, Roberta Boudreaux and Fernest “Pac-Man” Martin each took a few moments to introduce themselves and explain why they felt they were the best candidate for the job.
Both candidates for the Iberia Parish Clerk of Court seat were also present. Incumbent David Ditch made his pitch based on the actions he has taken in recent months, implementing a more robust e-filing system for the office and establishing satellite hours for the clerk’s office in Jeanerette, Delcambre and Coteau.
Challenger Ryan Huval toutied his 16 years of experience in the clerk’s office under former Clerk of Court Mike Thibodeaux and said he wanted more communication between the various branches of local government and the clerk’s office.
Only two of the candidates for New Iberia City Marshal attended. Greg Pete and Tony Migues each gave a short introduction and asked for the crowd to consider voting for them on Oct. 12.
Three parish council candidates showed up, but none had their opponents there. District 1 Councilman Tommy Pollard spoke briefly, but is running unopposed. District 7 Councilman Paul Landry spoke about the work he has done as council chairman over the last two years and touted the relatively smooth operation of this council as a testament to what he has learned.
“We have a wealth of knowledge on the council,” Landry said. “This is not a time to change people just because someone else wants to run.”
District 8 hopeful James Trahan echoed one of the key points candidates hammered on — the fact that he would answer the calls of constituents and respond to their requests. He also commended the audience members for taking time on the holiday to participate in the meet-and-greet.
“Y’all must care as much about this parish as I do to come out here tonight,” Trahan said. He is running for the seat left vacant after former District 8 Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin launched his campaign for the District 48 State Representative seat.
Although he was not there, Gonsoulin’s opponents, Dana Dugas, did speak to the crowd to let them know he, like Trahan, would be attentive and responsive if elected.
Lavine said she hoped to hold a second meet-and-greet on Sept. 26, the Thursday of this year’s Sugar Cane Festival.