Pope’s crimes and vanity hung a cloud over a small agency used to operating mostly out of public view. Pope now in prison out of parish and a new marshal is soon to be elected, the office is primed for a new chapter.
Around half the readers we heard from say they don’t really know what the marshal does. Marshals don’t have much of a public face, but they have a big public function. Here are the basics.
The gist: While disgraced former City Marshal Brian Pope was saying his good-byes to his family this morning ahead of reporting to the Lafayette Parish jail to begin serving his year-long sentence for malfeasance in office, his attorney was back in court maneuvering for more special treatment.
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.
The gist: The Third Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the three felony convictions of Marshal Brian Pope and affirmed District Judge David Smith’s decision to acquit him on one count of perjury. In a ruling issued Wednesday, the appellate court sent the case back to the lower court to clarify sentencing.
The gist: An organizer of the effort to recall City Marshal Brian Pope has settled the federal lawsuit he filed against Pope late last year for retaliating against him just hours after the recall effort failed.
Brian Pope, the first-term Lafayette city marshal who was suspended from office in October after being convicted by a Lafayette Parish jury on four felonies, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in the parish jail for each of three malfeasance convictions with all but one year suspended. It’s unclear whether Pope will serve that one year in Sheriff Mark Garber’s jail or under home confinement.
The gist: Lafayette City Marshal Mike Hill has winnowed down the number of his office’s reserve deputies — which had swelled to about 60 under his predecessor — to but a handful. Hill has called in the commissions of nearly 50 reserves who appear to have been deputized for no other reason than political patronage.
The gist: District Judge David Smith granted suspended City Marshal Brian Pope’s request for a delay in his sentencing until a full transcript of the marshal’s 2018 trial can be obtained. The embattled marshal returns to court Thursday to face 17 more felony charges.
City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque says the appointment of former federal Magistrate C. Michael Hill as interim city marshal is a temporary replacement pending final action by the Lafayette City-Parish Council.
The characters in the trial are a reminder of just how zany the Pope saga has been over the past three years. Here’s a refresher on some of the role players.
▸ The gist: In other words, Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope is not going back to jail — not yet anyway. And he gets two more years to serve a 2-year-old community service order.
▸ Here’s what happened: District Judge Jules Edwards apologized to Pope in court Wednesday morning. The judge explained that he had mistakenly continued to treat the case — which started out in 2015 as a civil public records lawsuit filed against Pope by The Independent (RIP) — as a civil matter rather than the criminal one it became after Pope defied the judge’s order to turn the records over to the paper. At that time, Edwards held the marshal in criminal contempt of court, an unprecedented finding in a public records case that included more than $100,000 in attorneys fees, court costs and penalties, 30 days in jail (with all but seven suspended) and 173 hours of community service (one for every day Pope withheld the records).
▸ When Pope failed to perform the community service (after repeated second chances), Edwards sent him to jail in February, where he served seven days before appealing the sentence. Earlier this month, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal remanded the case to Edwards to correct the mistake, noting community service can’t be a penalty for criminal contempt of court. So Edwards simply reimposed the original 30-day sentence and suspended it, giving Pope credit for time served. Community service is now a condition of his unsupervised probation — he has to teach 173 hours of public records courses or pick up trash for that many hours — and Pope has another two years to complete it. If he doesn’t, it’s back to the slammer.
▸ Pope’s legal woes are far from over, although he can breathe a sigh of relief for a short spell. The city marshal’s criminal trial on charges of malfeasance in office and perjury, a total of seven counts stemming from the public records dispute, begins Sept. 24.