Voters change council lineup

Sorrento to pick new mayor in May runoff

Sorrento residents demanded change at the ballot box Saturday, booting four of the town’s six elected officials out of office.

Only town councilmen Randy Anny and Marvin Martin were re-elected. Three council members and the mayor, who was seeking a position on the council, lost their races.

Democrat Wilson Longanecker Sr. and Republican Mike Lambert are headed to a May 4 runoff after they were the top two vote-getters in a three-candidate field for mayor.

Longanecker received 182 votes, or 41 percent of the vote, to finish ahead of Lambert’s 135 votes, or 30 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s website. Lambert finished eight votes ahead of Jason Adams, who ran for mayor and did not seek re-election on the council.

“The election isn’t over,” Longanecker said after the election. “The people have spoken to this point, and hopefully it continues.”

While the mayor’s race is headed to a runoff, the five council seats were determined in the Saturday election.

Newcomers Wanda Bourgeois, Don Schexnaydre and Patti Poche will join Anny and Martin on the council. All five of the elected council members are Democrats.

Mayor Wilson Longanecker Jr., who chose to seek a seat on the council rather than run for re-election as mayor, was defeated along with incumbent councilmen Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair and John Wright.

Longanecker Jr. won in April 2011 a heated, special election — which wasn’t decided until after a lawsuit and a revote — against Anny to fill the remainder of former Mayor Blake LeBlanc’s term.

But after two rocky years in office, including an extended medical leave, the mayor said he no longer wanted to sit in the town’s top chair.

Instead, Longanecker Jr.’s father, who served as mayor from 1989 to 1997, decided he would try to win back the mayor’s seat. Longanecker Sr. said he found out from Lambert that Longanecker Jr. wasn’t going to seek re-election.

In the council races, Bourgeois was the leading vote-getter with 306 votes cast for him, followed by Martin who had 272 votes, Schexnaydre with 232 votes, Poche with 211 votes and Anny with 202 votes.

The council candidates had to receive 194 votes in order to be elected outright and avoid a runoff. Vicknair received 192 votes to just miss the cut for a run-off. Ivan Bernuchaux Jr., who garnered 180 votes, Longanecker Jr., who received 170 votes, and Wright, who received 162 votes, rounded out the field.

Martin said he was pleased that the voters re-elected him, and he took it as a sign that he’s been doing a “fair job” as a councilman. However, he also acknowledged that the sweeping changes show residents want the town to move in a different direction.

The town has been plagued in recent months with fighting between the council and mayor as well as a rash of firings and resignations within its Police Department.

“In my opinion, I do believe the results of the election resulted in what the people wanted,” Martin said. “They were tired of past occurrences. They wanted change. They wanted a new regime.”

Because only two names will be on the May 4 ballot, the mayoral candidates said the voter turnout could play a key role in the election. Longanecker Sr. said getting the vote out will be his chief focus over his next four weeks of campaigning.

“Normally, when there’s just the mayor’s race and the council races have been decided, you have to get the vote out for your side basically,” he said. “I don’t look for many people to vote in the upcoming election.”

Lambert said he would reach out to Adams and seek his endorsement. With that feather in his cap, he said, he believes he can attract enough of the 127 voters who cast ballots Saturday for Adams to help make up the nearly 50-vote difference between himself and Longanecker Sr.

“Hopefully if I can get Jason’s endorsement, I can move forward and try to win this election,” Lambert said.

Longanecker Sr., who previously served as the town’s mayor for two terms, said he doesn’t really see any differences between Lambert and himself, and a vote for either candidate will be a vote for change in Sorrento.

“I believe we both are looking for the positive image of Sorrento and the growth for Sorrento,” he said.

Lambert, however, said anyone who is looking for real change in the town should cast a ballot for him.

“I think the voters who are going to vote for me want substantial change in Sorrento,” Lambert said.