Lafayette Republican Race, March 2024


Well, it’s that time again. Although it’s changing soon, the Presidential Preference Primary is currently Louisiana’s only closed primary. In addition to voters selecting the person to represent their political party for President of the United States election later this fall, they’ll also be selecting their local party representatives. These Party positions are unpaid, volunteer jobs. However, they do take a lot of time and effort to do correctly.

For purposes of this article, we’re going to be focused on the Lafayette Republican Parish Executive Committee, also referred to as the LRPEC or RPEC. It’s the governing authority of the Republican Party in Lafayette Parish. Generally speaking, the state party (RSCC) handles endorsing candidates for state-wide and some legislative races. It’s the RPEC whose primary mission is to endorse candidates on a local level. Most recently the RPEC issued endorsements for Parish Mayor-President, school board, parish council, and city council.

It’s time to question motives

In my experience, there are only a few reasons someone would run for these Republican Party positions. There is also a mix of personality types that make this type of job a good or bad fit.

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  1. I know what the job is about and I’m here for it. Sometimes there’s a deadweight incumbent in the way and sometimes it’s an open seat. You just have to judge people and ask good questions. They’re relatively easy to spot, though. Their social media tends to talk about policy and good or bad public officials or candidates (which is the core job of these committees).
  2. I’m running to make a difference. In many cases, someone new doesn’t know what they don’t know. They’re running because they genuinely want to make a difference, and this seems like as good a place to start as any. Many of these are showing up for the very first time and haven’t the first clue.
  3. I’m running for a seat at the table. This is potentially a less pure motive than wanting to make a difference. However, there are people out there (lots of them) who only want to feel important. Whether they genuinely think their presence will make a difference or not is less important than their being in the space. If elected, they’re just happy to show up and rarely do anything extra.
  4. I’m running because I don’t like someone else. Yes, these people do exist. They could have some of the second point, but they’re mostly running because they don’t want someone else (who’s usually already on the committee) to be there anymore. If elected, they may even show up to all of the meetings. However, they’re usually just happy to “get” whoever it is they don’t like.
  5. Finally, I’m running as a stepping stone to higher office. It’s like a trial run to get on the ballot, figure out how campaigning works, and prepare yourself for bigger things. Many people who get into politics through an RPEC may have no future aspirations, though. However, people running for RPEC may remember that Governor Jeff Landry himself once served on an RPEC many, many years ago.

Lafayette RPEC At-Large (you will select 9)

At-large just means these candidates are running parish-wide. Previously in Lafayette, there were nine districts and five at-large seats. The unintended consequence of Carlee “fixing the charter” was that four of these distinct seats went away. The RPEC worked with the DPEC and legislature to upgrade to 9 at-large seats and five district seats so the numbers would remain the same. As a result of that effort, you can select up to nine (9) people on your at-large ballot.

When Carlee lost her run for mayor, a contingent of Carlee’s followers also made a run at taking over the committee. Although one of her team managed to get on the committee, that effort was considered as colossal of a failure as her mayoral race.

We aren’t going to create whole scorecards for these races. However, I’m going to borrow one of the concepts for this article. That is the “birds of a feather” philosophy. As momma used to say, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” So, here we go.

Standard bearers (in alphabetical order)

By standard bearers, I mean they’re already installed in a position and actively working to promote the party’s platforms and candidates.

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Tim Breaux and Donald TrumpWe’ve mentioned Tim Breaux before in the battle for the heart of Lafayette’s Republican Party. In 2016, he served as the Deputy Chairman of the LAGOP (the Louisiana State Republican Party) as the primary liaison with Donald Trump himself. His wife, Monique, has also done interior design work for the Trumps. Tim is also the son of the late former Sheriff Donald Breaux (who only recently passed away). He and his family are highly respected in the community.

When Tim Breaux was called to serve on the RPEC about six years ago, meetings were unpredictable and almost schizophrenic. When there was a change in leadership, Tim Breaux got the call to take the helm – and take it he did. With his steady hand on the rudder, soon meetings began to smooth out. Instead of constant chaos, the RPEC began to earn the respect of the community. Over time, Tim Breaux has built it into an incredible presence in Lafayette.

Charlie Buckels - Donald TrumpCharlie Buckles is probably one of the more interesting fellows currently serving in the Republican Party. He’s been in and around the political scene for years. He knows where the political levers are and how to operate them. As such, his name evokes strong emotions in quite a few politicos around the state. Love him or hate him, he’s incredibly effective at promoting Republican candidates and values. He also met with Donald Trump numerous times, including once at the regional Republican meeting in New Orleans well ahead of his getting elected President in 2016.

You don’t have to take my word about Charlie Buckels working to advance party candidates. Recently, the Times-Picayune did an article on how Charlie Buckels was a major climate creator for Jeff Landry’s incredible run for governor. His diligent work got Jeff Landry the Republican Party endorsement a year before the election – when no one else had even started thinking about it. That endorsement unloosed the purse strings and played a major role in ushering Landry into office. He also recently worked to get uber-conservative, Kevin Berken, elected to the BESE board.

Patti CarterPatti Carter is the President of the Fleur De Lis Republican Women’s Club and currently serves on the RPEC. She keeps dossiers and files on various people and issues. If ever I need some background on something, she always has what I need. She watches the school board and the Lafayette City and Parish Councils, frequently showing up for public comment. Patti also has relationships with various public officials, by virtue of her volunteering for various Republican events and political campaigns. She and her daughter, Whitney, can occasionally be seen tooling around in a British Racing Green Austin-Healey. If memory serves, she was also an RNC delegate for Donald Trump back in 2016.

Ruth GaspardRuth Gaspard is currently serving on the RPEC and is vice president of the Acadiana Republican Women (ARW) Club. She’s a well-known face in political circles around Lafayette. At the recent, very successful LRPEC event featuring Jeff Landry and countless other public officials, Ruth was recognized as the primary organizer. She shows up, volunteers, and otherwise is ready with a helping hand for almost any Republican who asks.

John GuilbeauParish Councilman John Guilbeau is currently not a member of the RPEC. However, he deserves to appear with the group because he’s actively engaged as a conservative in local politics. Thanks to his service on the Parish Council, he’s going to be one of two exceptions to the “no scorecard” rule. Full disclosure, John Guilbeau has been very complimentary of our work and remains a good friend and supporter of our efforts.

Jeremiah SuppleJeremiah Supple has been in and around Republican Circles for years. He’s passionate about all kinds of issues. Since 2016 he’s been hyper-focused on ensuring our flooding and drainage issues aren’t forgotten. That persistence paid off very recently (last week) when the council in Lafayette approved some funding to Dredge the Vermilion River. He’s been a strong Republican advocate in the RPEC and has never been afraid to address challenges head-on.

Up and coming

Well, there are your first six. We still have three to go to fill up your dance card for the LRPEC elections. Let’s look at who’s up and coming.

Walter CampbellYou should remember Walter Campbell, who recently ran a very strong race for assessor. Although he fell short of Justin Centanni, he probably worked as hard as any candidate I’ve seen in a long time. He continues to have a presence at Republican events. By all accounts, it looks like he wants to stay engaged and the RPEC is a good way to do that.

Wayne ColvinWayne Colvin has been showing up to council and board meetings all over the place for some time now. He checks the numbers like no one else. Repeatedly he’s helped us (and everyone else) notice false things said by public officials that they had hoped would go unchallenged. He’s been with us at the public library, too, to demand fiscal accountability and transparency. In fact, he was standing at the podium to speak when the woke mob erupted into an angry tirade, resulting in the board having to call a ten-minute recess. They were upset because a conga line of wokies had to come face-to-face with the pornography they said wasn’t in the library. How does that saying go? I haven’t seen them this upset since … yesterday.

Keith KishbaughKeith Kishbaugh ran for Parish Council about five years ago. He’s an active sponsor and caller on the Ross Report. He’s in the commercial building industry and stays relatively close to conservative circles. You may also remember that Keith was the primary plaintiff against Carlee’s “fix the charter” disaster. Although the pro-Carlee judge made clear he had decided the case before even hearing arguments, the court system ultimately failed to protect Lafayette citizens from a calamity that continues to be a blight on the entire region. Supreme Court Jimmy Genovese even issued a fiery dissent on how the whole matter had been haplessly mishandled by the courts throughout the appeals process.

David LaughlinDavid Laughlin is the husband of Marian Laughlin, the incredibly capable President of Acadiana Republican Women. He’s a regular attendee at the RPEC meetings, Republican Women meetings, and occasionally our “Secret Lunch” meetings in Lafayette. I see David regularly and can vouch for his conservative principles. David had previously applied to become an at-large member of the RPEC when an open seat became available. However, Josh Guillory’s wife, Jamie, was ultimately appointed. David would be a great addition to the RPEC.

Jo-Jo Pere and Clay HigginsJo-Jo Pere is a friend of Congressman Higgins, Jeff Landry, and other prominent public officials. We talk often and are on the same page on nearly every issue. He, too, was expecting to be appointed to the RPEC in District 2 when that seat was open a few years ago. However, Ben Richard (brother of Scott Mayor Jan-Scott Richard, former Bayou Vermilion District commissioner, and member of the RSCC) received more votes and was seated. Jo-Jo is a worker who frequently rounds up volunteers to help candidates place campaign signs (some of them quite large) during election season. He’s also well-connected around town. You may remember his white BMW 3 series during the 2020 presidential campaign with the hood covered in Trump bumper stickers.

Persona non grata

There’s also “Team Denice” a slate of candidates that Denice Skinner either recruited to run or has agreed to be part of her team since qualifying. More on Denice in an alphabetical order minute.

Tom AngersTom Angers previously served on the RPEC but failed to be re-elected in 2020. He’s back again for another attempt. It’s odd for him to be on Team Denice, though. That’s because he was best known for demanding financial accounting from Denice Skinner regarding some $35,797 in checks she had written to herself from the LRPEC treasury. It was brought up and demanded at every single meeting, ad nauseam until Agners failed to be re-elected.

Dustin ArnaudDustin Arnaud once had a very promising future in the Party. He cut his teeth in politics through the Rob Mannes Senate campaign against Mary Landrieu. From there he made his way onto the RPEC at some point and had been a very strong Trump supporter and worker. However, at some point, he fell in with Denice Skinner. At a very low point a year or so ago, he was sending various people (including me) incredibly long and threatening text messages. It was another one of those ad nauseam things that kept happening for months until he resigned from the RPEC and completely disappeared – as if plucked from the Earth by a UFO. His sudden return happened in the form of qualifying for RPEC a few months ago. Additional info: Dustin called (from a new number) to remind me of his long history, including getting Jan-Scott Richard elected as the first Republican Mayor of Scott, recruiting Kevin Naquin to the Republican Party, and also sent in a better photo.

Tristan BarrasTristan Barras is a name that’s echoed around a little bit. I think perhaps he was in the College or Young Republicans group. If he’s a good fellow, falling in with this group is certainly ill-fated. He’d do well to walk away with his sanity. Nevertheless, he’s a newcomer that’s part of their slate.

Kevin NaquinKevin Naquin is everyone’s favorite Democrat turned Republican. Since he’s a former Parish Councilman, he’s the other scorecard exception. Kevin is a Cajun musician and served on the councils for twelve (12) years. Most of that time was as a Democrat until the Drag Queens decided to engage in non-stop ad hominem attacks against him. He said something like, “If this is how the Democratic Party treats their own, then I’m switching,” and switch he did. Unfortunately, he stuck with the big tax and spend policies he’d become accustomed to as a Democrat. He also doesn’t generally show up at any Republican events. Additional info: Kevin is a very nice fellow who returns calls and is always willing to have a conversation. After this article was published, he called to disagree with my assessment that he was pro-tax.

James and Solange NoriegaJames and Solagne Noriega are together because, well, they’re together as husband and wife. Solange currently serves in an at-large position on the RPEC. Why they both decided to run for RPEC is a mystery to me. They used to be supporters of our work. However, they fell away to instead be a part of Denice Skinner’s effort. Along with Denice, they staunchly opposed Congressman Higgins’s re-election in 2022. They were also strong supporters of the woke candidate, Erick Knezek, during his race for BESE. They sided with Denice Skinner against the LRPEC’s position on their official Facebook page. That page had been hijacked by Denice Skinner and converted for use against the LRPEC’s endorsed candidates. Solange was also the volunteer coordinator for Josh Guillory’s failed 2023 re-election campaign.

Denice SkinnerDenice Skinner should need no introduction. She was sued by the LRPEC some time back for converting the official LRPEC page for her own purposes. The short version is this. As the LRPEC treasurer, she ran the official LRPEC Facebook page. When the LRPEC endorsed Congressman Higgins in 2022, she disagreed. That’s when she started using the official LRPEC page to promote a Congressional candidate opposing Higgins who was not endorsed by the party. There was also a matter of approximately $35,797 in LRPEC checks that had been issued to Skinner by her own hand. What became of that $35,797 and the Facebook page remains part of a settlement agreement that has not been made public. She rarely shows up at Republican events. When she does, it’s as a disruptor.

Who dis?

Boyd Zeke ZitzmannThere’s another fellow, Boyd F. Zeke Zitzmann, running at-large (parish-wide) for RPEC. Although not well known in the area Zitzmann has been involved with various Boards and government activities over the years. Zitzmann is an Army veteran who, before relocating to Acadiana, lived in the New Orleans area. He is a retired public school employee who served for over a decade on the Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System Board. Since relocating to the area he has unsuccessfully run for political office on two occasions in Youngsville. In 2014 he unsuccessfully ran for Youngsville City Council as an “Other Party” candidate before switching to Republican and running unsuccessfully again in 2018. Chances are if you cast your ballot on Election Day at the Ernest Gallet Middle School polling place you have encountered Zitzmann, where he has consistently worked as an Election Day poll worker.

District 1

Mark PopeMark Pope was elected, unopposed. You’ll know him from occasionally guest-hosting Moon Griffon and other radio shows on KPEL. Mark also ran against Democrat incumbent Pat Lewis for City Council in majority-minority District 1 back in 2019. Although he received more votes than Lewis in the primary, he was unable to unseat Lewis in the runoff election. You may also know him from his service on the City-Parish Alignment Committee. If you’ve been around for a while, you may also remember him as a retired LCG employee. He’s a thoughtful fellow and determined to figure things out. After redistricting, Tommy Angelle was moved into District 5, leaving this an open seat in this majority-minority district.

District 2

Candace Garretson, who is a relative newcomer, appears on the “Team Denice” slate, the poor thing. Whether she was recruited by Denice before or after qualifying is anyone’s guess. However, it’s an unlucky mistake for a newcomer to fall in with this group of RINOs who hate our incredible Congressman Higgins. Hopefully, she figures out she’s standing on the wrong mushroom and moves out, post haste.

Ben RichardBen Richard, mentioned previously, is a former Bayou Vermilion District commissioner, a member of the RSCC, and the brother of Scott Mayor Jan-Scott Richard. He’s been in and around conservative circles for quite some time and even has his own political pedigree. He resigned from BVD (which was formed to pick up litter in the Vermilion River) when its employees decided to use their public resources to lecture the area on systemic racism. He was a big help in our efforts to flip the BVD board and get that organization back to sanity.

District 3

David EatonDavid Eaton is one of our tried and true conservatives. He is a former president of Bayou Vermilion District who undertook the painstaking process of removing the leftist nuts who had infiltrated the litter mitigation organization. They tried all the same, stale tactics that we see the left employ. If they can make you uncomfortable enough, maybe you’ll back off and let them continue running wild. For example, they were relentless with online attacks including the leftist press going after the new board. One of their employees (who we lovingly refer to as “gun finger”) made a threatening gesture toward David during a meeting. Since rooting all of that out, BVD meetings have become a cakewalk. David stood up against and successfully overcame withering opposition when it mattered. His early leadership took BVD from annual budget deficits to annual surpluses. That’s a win for the conservative movement.

Todd IstreTodd Istre is the husband of Ann Istre, who opposed Simone Champagne‘s election to the Youngsville City Council in November of 2022. The couple shows up to area Republican events regularly. They even came to our Frank Pavone event last year. They’re a nice couple who want to become more engaged in local politics. However, there’s not much else I know about them.

District 4

Susan BenoitSusan Benoit is probably best known for her work on Scott Angelle’s Congressional campaign against Congressman Clay Higgins. She was recently a huge supporter of Brandon Trosclair, who came in second-to-last in the state-wide Secretary of State race. At the Josh Guillory victory party, someone overheard her ranting that Guillory only lost because of our compromised election system (a major Trosclair talking point). She’s also been previously opposed to my work at the Voting Systems Commission. At one point she even showed up to disrupt a private event where I was speaking. She also showed up to an ARW meeting to ambush John Fleming over election integrity matters. She thought her issue was important enough to disrupt the meeting, even though Fleming was running for state treasurer; a position that has no purview over elections. Since then, ARW has modified its microphone policy so that meeting takeovers are more difficult to accomplish.

Jeremy HidalgoJeremy Hidalgo is currently a school board member from District 9. He had previously run for Parish Council for William Theriot’s term-limited seat but lost in the runoff to Josh Carlson. He’s previously been a tax and spend proponent. In a recent school board meeting, he was able to identify funding for the new Southside High School sports stadium without the need to raise taxes. However, the $16 million in total expenditures (including more than just the stadium) was slipped through without discussion using a device called a “consent agenda.” I’ve talked to Jeremy numerous times on school board matters. He’s knowledgeable, returns calls, and is always willing to have a conversation.

Joyce LindeJoyce Linde currently serves on the RPEC and is one of us. She’s best known in politics for her long history of conservative activism. She founded the Lafayette TEA Party some years ago, worked briefly as an area director for FreedomWorks, and later founded another conservative organization called LA-CAN. She’s been a dependable ally on the front lines of the conservative movement for decades. Most everyone in politics knows Joyce, including our governor, Jeff Landry. He was working with Joyce to advance conservative principles in Louisiana long before he was elected to Congress.

District 5

Tommy AngelleTommy Angelle is the former Democrat mayor of Carencro, former school board member, and current RPEC member. I was a little worried about Tommy when he ran for RPEC four years ago. However, he’s turned out to be a dependable member who lends his years of experience to the organization. He was previously the RPEC member from District 1. Today, he finds himself elected unopposed in majority-minority District 5. I’m looking forward to his continued presence and familiar face on the RPEC.

Wrapping up

Well, there you have it. This is my answer to all the various folks reaching out to me about the Lafayette RPEC race, who’s who, and what’s what. One of those calls even came into our office just this morning. Now, I know there are still some RSCC races to look at. We’ll see.


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