Stokes wins La. House seat

Kenner Republican polled 55 percent of votes cast

With all the ballots counted late Saturday, Julie Stokes won the race to represent a number of Metairie and Kenner neighborhoods along Lake Ponchartrain in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

The Secretary of State reported 2,693 or 55.98 percent of the votes cast for Stokes, R-Kenner, in her first run for public office.

Jack Rizzuto, R-Metairie, the chief executive officer of a family operated real estate business who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2007, had 1,599 votes or 33.24 percent, according to a complete but unofficial tally of all 24 precincts counted by the Secretary of State’s office.

Allison Bent Bowler, R-Metairie, and Paul Villalobos, R-Metairie, the two other candidates in the race, received 9.29 percent and 1.50 percent of the votes respectively.

The election was held to fill the position vacated by former Rep. Anthony “Tony” Ligi, R-Metairie, last year after he decided to take over leadership of the Jefferson Business Council.

The race for Louisiana House District 79 was one of two elections being held in Louisiana Saturday to the remainder of terms in the Louisiana Legislature.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, Barry Ivey, R-Central, was ahead with 1,924 of 53.09 percent of the votes counted in 25 of 28 precincts. His only other challenger, Scott Wilson, R-Central, had 1,700 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

During the final days of the campaign Rizzuto and Stokes engaged in some hard-fought campaigning with both candidates slinging various accusations of misconduct at each other. Stokes accused Rizzuto of failing to have a coherent plan for Louisiana’s tax policy, while he accused her of attacking his family to hide her lack of involvement in the community.

Throughout the campaign, Rizzuto touted his experience running a company that handles more than $5 million in sales annually. Rizzuto’s family-owned company has interests in a variety of industries from real estate management to float building. He said improving the district’s business community would be his focus because he understands what that community needs.

Stokes is a certified public accountant who already serves as a commissioner for the Regional Transit Authority New Orleans. Stokes said received the support of numerous Jefferson Parish politicians because she represented a change from the “good old boy” politics of the past.

Both Bowler and Villalobos were seen as longshots in the race, with Stokes and Rizzuto outstripping them easily when it came to fundraising and garnering high-profile endorsements.

Stokes was most prominently endorsed by Jefferson Parish President John Young and Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr.

Topping the list of backers for Rizzuto was Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.

Bowler was backed Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, a Metaire resident who employs her mother, former state rep. Shirley Bowler, as one of his top assistants. Former House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, also backed Bowler.

House District 79 has 28,313 registered voters, 22,314 of whom are white and 12,958 of whom are Republicans.

The low turn out predicted by Secretary of State Tom Schedler predicted a 16 to 18 percent total turnout for the two elections.

Schedler said low turnout in these two elections – the only balloting in the state on Saturday – would prove his point that Louisiana asks voters to come to the polls too often, particularly on smaller issues that can wait and be consolidated in fewer elections considering more issues.

A study showed that Louisiana held 70 elections – about double the rest of the country – between January 2005 and December 2010, Schedler said.