Constant elected; runoff in Westwego

Belinda Constant
Belinda Constant

Gretna residents have their first new mayor in nearly three decades in former council member Belinda Cambre Constant, while Westwego residents will have to wait until May to find out who their next mayor will be.

Gretna voters gave Constant roughly 58 percent of their votes based on the Louisiana secretary of state’s website Saturday night. Constant is replacing longtime Mayor Ronnie Harris, who will become the head of the Louisiana Municipal Association this summer. Vincent Cox III, Constant’s opponent, received about 42 percent of the vote. Roughly 3,438 voters cast a vote in the mayoral election.

In Westwego, a race featuring three familiar faces resulted in a runoff between Mayor Johnny Shaddinger and Councilman Ted Munch with former council member Lisa Valence coming in third place. Shaddinger received roughly 47 percent of the vote while Munch and Valence received 37 percent and 16 respectively.

The last time these three candidates participated in an election together, they finished in the same order. Only 2,524 voter cast votes in the mayor’s race.

Constant ran for the position after serving two terms on the council and previously serving as the administrator at Jefferson Parish’s drug court. Her campaign was marked by slick advertising and endorsements from several of Gretna’s prominent business owners.

Constant also garnered endorsements from several political groups and was more successful than Cox at fundraising.

Constant stressed the idea that Gretna needed a mayor who valued all that the city had to offer and who had a plan for pushing Gretna forward. She claimed that her background as an administrator, business owner and legislator gave her a level of understanding for the job that Cox did not possess. Attempts to reach Constant for comment on Saturday night were unsuccessful.

Cox campaigned on the idea that his roughly 25 years on the board uniquely prepared him for the job as mayor. He said that he had a track record of moving projects forward and getting them completed. Joe Marino III and Mark Miller will be replacing Constant and Cox on the council, and each man won his election in decisive fashion.

In Westwego, Shaddinger argued that residents should give him four more years to continue to grow and develop the city. Westwego is looking to begin construction on a new City Hall this year and hopes to develop plans for a unique drinking water plant that could save the city millions. Shaddinger said he was pleased with Saturday’s results. He said he feels confident moving forward and plans to stick with a positive campaign that focuses on his accomplishments.

“We feel great. We feel that the bottom line is we got great support. People recognize what we’ve been able to do in Westwego,” Shaddinger said.

Munch was the city’s longest-serving council member before he decided to run for mayor for the second time in five years. He’d served on the board for more than 30 years since Westwego had a police jury. Munch has argued that his breadth of experience makes him the perfect choice to lead the city during its current upheaval. He did not return several calls for comment.

Westwego voters also cast ballots in four different council races. In the District 3 race, longtime challenger Norman Fonseca finally managed to unseat incumbent Ivy Rogers after multiple tries. Fonseca will be joined as a first-time board member by Johnny Nobles, who beat out Al Kaiser to replace Munch in District 2. In District 5, incumbent Larry Warino held on to his seat, while Councilman Melvin Guidry will also be involved in a run-off election against former councilman Garrison Toups.

Guidry received about 36 percent of the voter in the District 4 council race, while Toups was supported by 38 percent of voters.

The runoff election will be held on May 4 on the same ballot as the vote on the Crescent City Connection toll renewal.