Dirty politics swirl in Clinton race

Talk of key town employees being fired and alleged complaints of illegal voting are swirling in the only Clinton political race remaining after the Nov. 6 primary balloting.

Incumbent Mayor Don Reason, 66, serving his first term in office, faces Alderwoman Lori Ann Bell, 51, in the Dec. 8 runoff election for mayor.

Early voting for the runoff continues until 6:30 p.m. Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the East Feliciana Parish Registrar of Voters Office, 11048 Bank St., in Clinton.

Clinton Police Chief Eddie Stewart issued a news release last week that says his department received a list of 115 people who allegedly voted in the Nov. 6 primary but were not eligible to vote for town officials.

The news release says the department also had received complaints of alleged vote buying and “general voter fraud,” including “some organizers” offering gifts, money or alcoholic beverages for votes.

On Tuesday, Stewart issued another release that says his investigators met with representatives of the Secretary of State’s Election Compliance Unit on Monday and determined that voting by ineligible voters is not a criminal matter.

The state election code governs the manner in which election results are contested, but the deadline for challenging the Nov. 6 results had passed, the second release says.

Reason got 405 votes to Bell’s 404 on Nov. 6, according to official returns. A third candidate, Robert Flowers, received 170 votes.

East Feliciana Parish Clerk of Court David Dart said no one has brought any allegations of illegal voting to his attention. Dart also is president of the parish Board of Election Supervisors.

Voters who live in the town of Clinton are assigned to Precinct 16, while those who live outside the town are registered in Precinct 18, Registrar of Voters Bobbie Ross said. The precincts share the town’s fire station as a polling place but use different voting machines, she said.

Stewart’s second news release also says the department’s ability to investigate claims of voter intimidation and vote-buying is limited without witnesses coming forward to provide statements.

Some Clinton voters recently received unsigned, two-page letters attacking Bell on personal grounds and warning that if elected, she intends to fire Stewart, along with the town’s fire chief, maintenance supervisor and other key personnel.

“It’s dirty politics,” Bell said of the letter, adding the allegation that she plans to fire a number of employees is untrue.

She also declined to respond to the personal attacks against her.

The letters’ return address included a Clinton post office box number and “Clinton Public Awareness Committee.” Instead of a signature, the letter ended, “A Fearful Man.”

Reason did not respond to phone messages left at his office and on his cellphone Thursday.

Four incumbent Board of Aldermen members, George Kilbourne, Clovis Matthews, Lisa Washington and Johnny Beauchamp, won re-election Nov. 6, and Kim Wilson Young, who received the most votes in the aldermen’s race, will replace Bell on the board.