It ain’t over: Lafayette races turn to runoffs for district court and city marshal

Photo by Travis Gauthier
Voters mull over sample ballots on Election Day outside of Acadian Elementary

The gist: High drama in the presidential election drove a big turnout and a hangover for anxious voters. Runoffs for two district judgeships and city marshal will likely compete with much lower participation on Dec. 5, if history is any indicator. 

Here are the big remaining races. I’ve included the primary vote share for each candidate. 

  • City Marshal — Kip Judice (R) 44% vs. Reggie Thomas (NP) 26%
  • District Court Div. B — Travis Broussard (D) 28% vs. Valerie Gotch Garrett (D) 49%
  • District Court Div. D — Royale Colbert (D) 44% vs.  Amanda Martin (D) 41% 

71%. That’s the turnout for presidential election among Lafayette Parish voters. Enthusiasm for the Biden/Trump race edged the 2016 turnout by almost 9,000 votes. Turnout for down-ballot races trailed the headlining contest, which is typical of most presidential cycle elections. 

Runoffs generally turn in much lower turnout. Though they vary by office. The 2016 Trump/Clinton contest drew 68.7% participation. U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins won his first term that year in a runoff that drew only 28% participation across the 3rd Congressional District and 29% in Lafayette Parish. John Kennedy’s Senate run fared about the same. 

That’s not quite apples to apples. The last city marshal’s race was in 2014 — it’s a six-year term. Brian Pope, who was removed from office after a felony conviction this month, beat Kip Judice in a runoff that year that attracted 43% of city voters, a relatively minor decline from the 50% voting in the 2014 primary — notably absent a presidential contest. Judice, Republican, now faces Reggie Thomas, no party, in an open seat runoff after a comparatively live primary race that posted 66.7% participation. 

District court races didn’t see much of a boost from the Trump vs. Biden contest. Around 52% of voters cast ballots in both the Div. D and Div. K races still up for grabs. In 2014, a race for Div. E, won by Judge Michele Breaux, pulled in 52% participation, declining to 43% for the runoff. 

The X-factor is money. Ad buys and earned media attention would tend to boost interest in the remaining races. In the marshal’s race, Judice raised over $186,000 since kicking off his campaign at the beginning of 2020. He’s spent all but a few thousand dollars, though he boasts a big list of contributors, the institutional support of the Republican Party and a healthy lead. Thomas, running no party, pulled about $29,000 since jumping in mid-summer, adding another $10,000 with a personal loan. In his final filing, issued 10 days before the primary, he reported around $18,000 heading into the runoff. 

It’s a mixed bag of Democrats in the judicial races. In Div. B, Travis Broussard goes into the runoff with $10,400 left of roughly $50,000 raised, edging out opponent Valerie Gotch Garrett’s remaining $4,000 pot of her nearly $70,000 war-chest, which included $33,400 in loans. 

In Div. D, Royale Colbert sits on just under $22,000, according to the latest filings, after far outraising Amanda Martin through the campaign. He raised over $50,000 and loaned his effort another $50,000. Martin reported a little over $6,000 on hand 10 days out from the primary but raised around $20,000 total throughout the campaign, loaning her campaign $16,150. 

What to watch for: Ground game will be everything. In local races, money doesn’t necessarily mean votes, but it can’t hurt. It’s a truism in politics of all levels that what matters is who turns out the vote. Without a big ticket race to energize Republicans and Democrats in December, it’s going to come down to how well the candidates can get out the vote.