Old guard holds on to RPEC

LPSB member Tommy Angelle, a moderate Republican, defeated staunch right-wing activist Denice Skinner for the District 1 RPEC seat Saturday. Photo by Travis Gauthier

The gist: A loosely organized effort to shake up leadership in the local Republican Party failed Saturday, with one notable exception: Lafayette Parish School Board member Tommy Angelle defeated Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee member and staunch right-wing activist Denice Skinner in District 1.

Angelle bested Skinner by a mere 34 votes, garnering 795 votes to her 761. Skinner was already serving on the committee, but because the committee districts follow the new parish council districts, all of the seats were technically new and thus “open.”

In District 2, Dustin Arnaud was elected without opposition; Landon Boudreaux beat Donna Greco and Jeff Delahoussaye in District 3; Betsie Arabie defeated Justin Centanni and Homer Fouquier Jr. in District 4, and John Bienvenu easily beat Justin Cullins in District 5. View the vote breakdown for Republican and Democratic leadership here.

Old guard retains power. Angelle and others challenging the status quo, mostly moderate Republicans, told The Current in January they were running to stop some of the infighting and personal attacks coming from current committee members. In fact, Angelle indicated at the time that he was moved to run after mean-spirited comments Republicans closely aligned with RPEC made on social media about Erick Knezek when he decided to run for a committee seat. The two men served on the school board together, and had developed a mutual respect. Knezek lost his RPEC bid Saturday, running eighth in a field of 12 for at-large seats. Elected to the five at-large seats were Charlie Buckels, Tim Breaux, Ross Little Jr., Jeremiah Supple and Joyce Linde. (Convicted felon Brian Pope, whom the RPEC had refused to oust, ran 10th in the field.)

Despite losses, Angelle is hopeful. The newly elected member hopes to see the rhetoric and bickering end and says he will aim for a sense of unity within the local political apparatus. “We should all want what’s best for the party, and we can agree to disagree,” he says.

Opening the books. Angelle is also vowing to take the reins in the push for transparency, specifically efforts to open the committee’s financial records to full scrutiny — efforts that led to testy exchanges among members during the recent campaign. “We’ll have an audit, make sure all the books are right,” Angelle says. “And that’s not in any way, shape or form to be ugly, but just to start off knowing where we are and where we need to go.”