PORT ALLEN — The four candidates vying for Port Allen mayor, all Democrats, are feeling confident about Saturday’s special election despite an investigation into alleged voter fraud and a counter-complaint that the investigation is causing voter intimidation.
Port Allen voters are being asked to return to the polls less than six months after they recalled former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter 11 months into her first term in City Hall.
The controversial former mayor is back on Saturday’s ballot, trying to reclaim the office she felt unjustly ousted from.
The turnout, judging by early voting, should be high.
West Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Stacy Ryan said 36 percent of the city’s 4,035 registered voters cast their ballots during early voting, which ended Saturday.
There were 1,148 votes cast in person during early voting and, as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 297 votes delivered via mail-in ballot, Ryan said. The deadline to receive mail-in ballots is 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Ryan called it the second-highest early voter turnout in the city’s history, the highest being Slaughter’s recall election, she added.
The top two vote-getters likely will square off in a May 3 runoff should none of the four candidates get 50 percent plus one of the votes cast in the primary.
Slaughter said she’s returning to the race in hopes of finishing the term she was first elected to in November 2012.
“I have been on the campaign trail day to day knocking on doors,” Slaughter said. “I’ve just been telling my supporters, ‘Let’s complete the job that was started.’ A lot of them have realized all the false accusations that have been said about me. A lot of them realize those things are not true. I broke no laws, and they realize that.”
Slaughter again found herself the center of controversy this week when officials with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said members of her campaign team might be tied to possible voting fraud during early voting.
The Sheriff’s Office launched its probe last week after receiving hundreds of complaints that mail-in and faxed requests for early voting ballots did not match voter information on file with the Registrar of Voters Office.
On Wednesday, the Slaughter campaign fired back, with Slaughter’s attorney filing a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department seeking an investigation into alleged voter intimidation and suppression that her camp feels is connected to the Sheriff’s Office investigation.
The three other candidates in the race declined to comment on the voter fraud investigation or the voter intimidation complaint.
Candidate Richard Lee, a retired law enforcement officer, said he is focused on the positive. “I’m just hoping things go as planned; hopefully, we can win in the first primary,” he said.
Lee entered the race riding on the momentum of a nominating petition containing more than 200 signatures from the city’s registered voters who wanted to see him run for mayor.
Lee said his message to voters on the campaign trail has been one of unity.
“We have to bring people together so we can move forward,” he said. “And not just the community, but among the council members as well.”
Kirby Anderson, a retired teacher making his second attempt for the mayor’s seat, calls himself a “man of the people” who, if elected, has pledged to move the city forward through community networking and outreach programs for children.
“I realize I was running for mayor a long time while I was teaching at Port Allen High School,” Anderson said. “The people I taught there are now citizens of Port Allen. I can network with some of these people I know — some of which live in surrounding parishes — to continue to make the city grow.”
Businessman Larry Bell rounds out Saturday’s ballot. The Port Allen native also is running on a platform of community harmony.
But Bell had to spend a lot of his time on the campaign trail addressing his March 13 arrest on a count of mistreatment of animals, a charge that’s still pending.
According to previous reports, Bell had been issued multiple warnings about the undernourished appearance of one of his horses before he was taken into police custody.
Bell said the horse was undernourished when he purchased it several months ago and he had been trying to nurse it back to health.
“I’ve never mistreated an animal,” he said. “I have three other horses and they are doing fine. I’m sure (the arrest) might have swayed some votes but I still feel I have a chance.”