Port Allen residents made it clear Saturday – they had grown tired of mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter and her ways.
With a surprisingly low Saturday voter turnout, Slaughter was recalled from her position as mayor with nearly 57% of votes, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, voting FOR the recall.
The vote garnered 2,556 overall votes, only 63% of the registered voters in the city of Port Allen, which is much lower than the 75-80% that was projected last week by WBR Registrar of Voters, Stacy Ryan.
Early voting, which took place from November 2-9, numbers counted for twice the amount of those who voted at polls Saturday. According to Ryan, about 42% of registered voters, more than half of the counted votes, were cast by early ballot. Only about 21% of registered voters cast their ballot on Saturday.
Slaughter said Tuesday that she was disappointed in the results of the election, and said that she had hoped voter turnout would be higher on Saturday.
“The numbers are what they are. At the end of the day, there’s nothing you can do about that,” she said during a telephone interview. “Apparently the people just did not come out. The turn out was not as high as we would have thought.”
However, some believe that voter turnout was low because residents’ support of Slaughter had waned over time.
“Another big statement was the number of black people that just stayed home and didn’t vote. If Mayor Slaughter would’ve had the overwhelming support of the black community, I think the black turnout would have been higher. That speaks volumes, it really does,” said Port Allen Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere. “We all know she has that core group of vocal supporters who were there at every turn, but city-wide, how much support did she have?”
Councilman R.J. Loupe shared Riviere’s sentiments, saying that he didn’t think Slaughter had as much support as she believed she had.
“The percentage of the black voters is 70 percent to the white vote of 30,” said Loupe. “They’re trying to make this a black and white thing… Reasonably, if it were just about black and white, she’d have hung in there and not lost by 350 votes.”
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence said that she also believed that the voter turnout was low because people simply didn’t want to partake in the election.
“I felt that there should have been more people out to vote, but I think they’re kind of disgusted at all of the things that are happening,” she said.
During her tenure in office, Slaughter was questioned about several of her actions and inactions, including (but not limited to) her inability to work with the city’s CFO and the city council to pass a balanced budget; a trip to Washington D.C., to attend the U.S. Presidential Inauguration on the city’s tab; and her decision to collect a higher salary than the council had previously budgeted.
“We’ve been through hell,” Loupe said in an interview Monday afternoon. “I’ve never witnessed what I’ve witnessed the last 10-11 months.”
Though a first-year council member, Garry Hubble said that he, too, thought that he and the rest of the council had fallen upon hard times with Slaughter in leadership.
“I didn’t like going through what we had to. It was absolutely childish and needless to go through what we’ve had to go through,” Hubble said. “The problem was recalled Saturday night. It’s no secret the way I feel about it.”
But while some are ecstatic about the outcome of Saturday’s election and believe it can only get better from here, others believe there is still a difficult road ahead.
Councilman Brandon Brown wrote on his Facebook status Saturday night after election results had been released, “PA how I adore you and hate you in the same breath.”
During an interview Monday afternoon, Brown said that the recall of Slaughter was “unfortunate,” adding that he wished the council had done a better job working together.
“I love the city of Port Allen, but… I don’t know if people thought that would make things better because of those results,” Brown said during an interview Monday.
“The city is still torn apart. People are still hateful towards each other. That’s just not a good environment – that’s not Port Allen. We shouldn’t be attacking each other.
But due to the circumstances, that’s what it is.”
Some residents in the city say the mayor never had an opportunity to accomplish anything as mayor because of the opposition that she faced.
“She never had a chance because certain people didn't want her and refused to work with her from day one,” wrote Talmadge Gray in a comment on Facebook. “I applaud you Brandon for working with her to try and move the city forward. It's very disappointing how divided PA is.”
Brown and others believe that the droves of negative media attention that mayor Slaughter and the city of Port Allen garnered throughout Slaughter’s tenure was to blame for the successful recall effort.
“Some media outlets repeatedly attacked the city of Port Allen, which made (Slaughter) look bad. I just wish we could have worked some things out behind the scenes instead of just getting in the camera,” Brown said.
Slaughter, too, said she believed the media was at fault.
“All the negative stories - that played a big part. All those things they put on the news. All the allegations that were going on me; all those turned out to be things that were not true,” Slaughter said.
Some residents said that media reports did affect the way they viewed Slaughter, but Slaughter’s actions became the reason for waning support.
“she had my support until she lied about her trip to Washington D.C., and that started the snowball effect with the media. And instead of admitting to it she tried to cover it. Being a Leader means taking responsibility when you make mistakes and she lost a lot of trust by not doing that,” said Brian Allen, who commented on Brandon Brown’s public Facebook status shortly after the recall results. “I am sure she knew before she was even declared the winner in the election that she would face opposition in City Hall. But with that being said, you have to be able to rise above any negativity and adversity that comes your way.
“And as far as the media is concerned, they are doing a job whether the information is true or false. And from what I can see, all the council meetings consisted of was bickering and nothing ever getting resolved.”
According to Mark Graffeo, West Baton Rouge Clerk of Court, Slaughter, or any other resident, has nine days from the date of the election to contest the results.
Graffeo said Slaughter has until Monday, November 25, to contest; and if she decides to do so, her case must be heard within four days. However, Graffeo said that with the Thanksgiving holiday during that same week, there is a possibility a judge will not hear the contestation until December 1.
“I guess if she filed it Monday, it could go all the way until the end of the next Monday at 12 o’clock before it can be heard,” he explained. “Or the judge could hear it the next day. That’s why it’s so hard to pin it down, because it depends on what the judge says after that.”
Graffeo said that once the judge hears the contestation, he will rule, which can be appealed to the appellate court, who will then have four days to rule.
“I know that that process could, especially with this holiday coming on, it could be something that could drag out a little bit longer than it normally would,” Graffeo said.
Hubble said that he was aware that the process may be dragged out, but he said that Slaughter will be gracious in defeat and allow the council to start getting to city business.
“You’re probably looking at a protracted 16 days, it’s possible. That includes the 10 days time period that’s normal after a recall,” Hubble said. “Personally if it was me and I’d been recalled, I’d leave. I’d say the message has been sent and received; and let us go to work.”
Riviere agreed, saying the gap between winning and losing was large enough that fighting the results will not result in a win for Slaughter.
“Maybe one day this week she’ll graciously step aside; I mean, it’s not like it was a 10 vote difference. It was 350,” he said. “I just hope that we as a council can come together, because it’s been a tough road for all of us. It hasn’t been very enjoyable, I can tell you that. The stress on all of our families and friends, it’s just tough. It weighs on you.
Slaughter did not comment when asked if she planned to contest Saturday’s results.
Stacy Ryan said that the council has 20 days, once Slaughter vacates her office, to appoint an interim mayor (in the meantime, Mayor Pro Temp Ray Helen Lawrence will serve as acting mayor).
If the council fails to appoint an interim mayor, according to Ryan, the governor will make the appointment, something several council members say they want to avoid.
“My hope is that the council can come together on a choice for interim mayor. Ideally, if we could unanimously back someone, I think that would be a huge step,” Riviere said. “It would show that the council can work together.”
Loupe agreed saying that the only ‘next step’ that the council can make is to begin working together.
“We need to be together and try to get an interim mayor, move on and let’s get our budget in tact and let’s move on.”
Hubble, however, said that he would rather Governor Bobby Jindal appoint an interim mayor.
“Personally, at this point, I would feel more comfortable with letting the governor decide. If we pick somebody, it’s not going to satisfy everybody. You can’t satisfy everybody anyway,” Hubble said. “If the governor goes ahead and approves somebody, I think it takes us out of the occasion a little bit.”
Ryan noted that the individual who is appointed as interim mayor cannot run for the mayor’s position in the April 5 special election, which will decide Port Allen’s mayor for the remainder of Slaughter’s term. Ryan also said that if a council member is appointed interim mayor, they must vacate their council chair – which he/she would have to be re-elected to retake the council chair.
“I think that the light that the council is being viewed in right now, I don’t think it would be in the city’s best interest for me or any of the other council members to take (the position of interim mayor),” Riviere said. “I’ve talked to every council member – none of us want it. That would mean we would have to turn around next April and re-run (for council) again. I don’t feel like getting back on the campaign trail. I just got off it last year.”
Brandon brown said despite the disagreements the council has had over the past few months, he simply wants the council, along with the residents, to help move the city forward together.
“I just wish we could actually just sit down at the table and figure it out instead of ‘he said, she said,’ or ‘it wasn’t like this 10 years ago, or it’s like this now.’ Whatever the case may be, I just hope it really works out, because we have too much potential to say we’re going through what we’re going through,” he said.
Now, several Port Allen residents say they hope the council members can work together.
I want the city of Port Allen to move in the direction it should be,” said Deloris Kibby, chairperson for the Mayoral Recall Petition. “Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years ago, had a dream; today, 50 years later I got a vision – to see this city belong back to the citizens of Port Allen.”
Riviere said that he is ready to see what the future may hold for the city.
“I’m excited. At least we’re moving. We know which direction we’re going now.
It’s going to be a long road, but we’ll get there,” he said.
Hubble agreed, adding that he is glad Slaughter’s tenure as mayor is complete.
“I have a passion for this city. And I believe in it. And I want to build it. But for 11 month, I’ve been playing childish games with somebody. And I’m glad it’s over.”