“A group of concerned citizens called SaveGonzales announces that they have filed separate petitions with the Louisiana Secretary of State seeking recall elections for Gonzales City Councilmen Timothy Vessel and Gary Lacombe,” reads a press release issued earlier today. The petitions were filed at approximately 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, April 23.
The group is co-chaired by Gonzales residents, Chuck LeBlanc and Wandetta Reynard, as are the recall petitions.
“Over the past 16 months, the two councilmen have been more concerned with playing politics than serving the people that they were elected to represent. In the wake of council disagreements over zoning changes, operating budgets, and emergency services, (SaveGonzales) believes that recalling both councilmen is in the city’s best interest,” the press release goes on.
The petitions mark the fourth and fifth occasions in the past 13 months that recall efforts have been undertaken against elected officials in two of Ascension’s three municipalities, two of which are ongoing. It is the second such attempt at recalling Gary Lacombe, an April 2013 petition having failed to garner sufficient signatures to trigger a recall election. The first attempt was filed by Claston Bernard who failed in a bid to unseat Lacombe’s council colleague, Terance Irvin, in a 2012 election.
Recall against two Sorrento officials, Mayor Mike Lambert and Councilman Randy Anny, continue but neither seems to have generated much support. Both were filed in November 2013 and face May 2014 deadlines.
The first Recall Gary Lacombe petition fell far short of the necessary 2,100 signatures of Gonzales voters. This time, though, Lacombe and Vessel appear to face more serious challenges. SaveGonzales appears to have two critical elements lacking in Claston Bernard’s campaign, funding and organization. Without the former it is virtually impossible to have the latter and Bernard personally funded the prior endeavor. It was, largely, a one-man operation.
Not so, this time around.
“We know that this is a serious undertaking and difficult to accomplish,” Chuck LeBlanc stated. “We feel like there will be sufficient support in the community to get it done.”
SaveGonzales commissioned an automated poll last week in order to gauge that public support. It showed that Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Police Chief Sherman Jackson remain popular with approval ratings in the mid-80% range. That is remarkably high given the fact that they have been in office over five years. January 2012 polling data pegged their approval at 88% and 87% respectively.
Similar data for the Council as a body measured approval at 83% in 2012, reduced to 56% at present.
The latest poll asked respondents if they would sign a recall petition for Vessel and Lacombe. 39% said they would do so (31% definitely) as to Vessel. Those percentages were 25% and 20% for Lacombe. After informing respondents of certain controversial actions by the subject councilmen the percentage of respondents who would sign a recall petition spiked to approximately 60% for both.
The mere fact that SaveGonzales has expended the funds necessary to conduct polling evidences its commitment to the cause. The Creole has spoken to three Gonzales businessmen who confirmed contributions to SaveGonzales but insisted on anonymity.
“Like I told you, this is serious business,” insisted Chuck LeBlanc who has been the most outspoken of critics to Vessel and Lacombe. “No one involved in SaveGonzales takes this lightly because it is an extraordinary measure. But we believe it to be absolutely necessary to protect everything that has been built in our city over the years.”
Sources within SaveGonzales confirmed that the campaign will feature extensive advertising and paid staff, all in the effort to acquire the necessary signatures to force a recall election; 1/3 of Gonzales’ registered voters. If over half of those voters sign then the subject is recalled and his position is declared vacant. In either event, an election would be scheduled.
A press conference will be held at Carlico Café at 5 p.m. on Wednesday night, April 23, to discuss the petitions filed. The public is invited to attend.