December 1, 2023 7:00am

Here's why Josh Guillory lost his re-election bid

Most voters say incumbent entered the race a bruised candidates after years of controversy

Photo of Adam Daigle
Lafayette, LA Correspondent
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Lafayette Power Poll voters, pat yourself on the back. Well, not all of you, but nearly half.

In October 46% of voters were right on their prediction that Monique Blanco Boulet would top incumbent Josh Guillory in the Lafayette Mayor-President’s race. She won by just over 2,000 votes, holding up on the Power Poll prediction of a slim Boulet win as well as the poll from the previous month when voters tagged Guillory as vulnerable.

But we’re not here to regurgitate those numbers. This month we Power Poll voters about the why, and they had their say.

Offered five scenarios, 52% of voters stuck with this: Guillory came into the race a bruised candidate in a term that was controversial.

That much was reported and often repeated by Boulet’s camp as the election day drew near. But the incumbent never seemed to get out in front of the allegations or merely explain them away. Even when former state lawmaker Don Bacque officially filed a perjury complaint against Guillory alleging that the mayor-president lied under oath, Guillory, an attorney by trade, did not offer a public response.

A similar poll commissioned by KADN also predicted a Boulet win in a close race, and their questioning revealed more of what voters were thinking, wrote Jim Parker, the station’s executive director of news and public affairs.

“Trustworthiness and corruption were among the top issues on voters’ minds,” he wrote. “A majority of voters surveyed said Guillory was either somewhat or completely dishonest. Contrast that with a similar majority who found Blanco to be honest. Corruption was the top voting issue after the economy -- and ahead of crime.”

Yet some Power Poll voters pointed a finger at the low voter turnout as 17% indicated it was a factor in the race. That fact that almost 10,000 voters stayed home on Nov. 18 after voting in the primary is worth debating, but first let’s unpack some things.

In the runoff, Boulet gained just over 5,500 votes while Guillory gained only about 100. Did not having a runoff for governor on the ballot hurt Guillory? Possible. Did the down ballot north Lafayette-based city council runoff help Boulet? Also possible.

In the 2019 runoff, while Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone slugged it out at the top of the ballot, Guillory rolled up over 43,000 votes, nearly twice the amount he received on Nov. 18 and nearly 10,000 votes ahead of Carlee Alm-LaBar as over 77,000 votes were cast. (Rispone, by the way, carried Lafayette Parish by over 15,000 votes).

Slice it any way you want, but candidates, especially in local elections, must get voters out to vote. Guillory received about 20,000 fewer votes than he did four years ago. Boulet gained enough votes, especially in the city of Lafayette and the northern end of the parish, to win, despite getting nearly 10,000 fewer votes than Alm-LaBar did.

“Another key to Boulet's win was a strong campaign to get the city voters she needed to actually show up and vote on Saturday,” voter Mike Bass wrote. “The city council runoff in District 1 helped that effort.”

Guillory's campaign leaned heavily into political party affiliation in both races. Boulet and primary opponent Jan Swift were tagged as “woke liberals” in a commercial that featured photos of President Joe Biden and other national Democrats.

On runoff election day, his campaign’s Facebook page urged voters to “vote conservative” and warned that “Democrat voters are over performing.”

Asked if they vote solely along party lines in local elections, only 4% of Power Poll voters said they do. Other responses were varied: 35% said they do most of the time, 31% said that approach only matters in state and national elections and 30% said they do only when they can’t decide on a candidate.

Boulet, who indicated early on that she switched from Democrat to Republican before the campaign, did well in areas that often vote Democrat. Voter Tommy Hays indicated her switch helped her pick up enough Republican votes as well.

Boulet is now preparing for her term to begin and last week named her transition team. Over half of Power Poll voters are expecting changes to a Lafayette Consolidated Government that will be led by a woman for the first time in its history with only 23% predicting minimal changes, if any.

Almost 75% of voters indicated they were optimistic about the next four years in Lafayette Parish while only 14% either slightly pessimistic or not excited at all.

Conducted online Tuesday through Thursday, The Acadiana Advocate Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of leaders from various sectors throughout Acadiana, it does afford nonpartisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of the community. Of 550 Power Poll members surveyed, 250 voted for a participation rate of 45.45%.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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