Four Candidates Vie For St. Tammany Parish President

Oct 2, 2015

There are several races on the ballot October 24 affecting parishes in the New Orleans metro region. Here's a look at the contest for St. Tammany Parish President.

Among the issues grabbing headlines in St. Tammany Parish is the Helis Oil and Gas proposed fracking project near Lakeshore High School in Mandeville.

Incumbent Parish President Pat Brister, who is seeking a second four-year term, says it is a concern, but not the only issue.

“We are a parish of 250,000 people and I assure you fracking is not the most important thing we face today. We have infrastructure issues," Brister said. "We have infrastructure issues. We have job issues. We have economic development issues. All of those things we talk about everywhere we go. "

One of her three challengers is attorney Kevin Coleman. He says his opposition to hydraulic fracturing — or horizontal drilling — got him into the race.

“It’s a disaster no matter which way you look at it. It’s not good for anybody, anywhere. It may provide a short-term profit for the few who are into it, but it has all kinds of risks and dangers associated with it," said Coleman. "And I’m just touching the surface environmentally on that.”   

He says other issues include making government more transparent, and expanding mental health services through existing heath care providers.

Margie Vicknair-Pray is also running opposed to fracking. Also, she says economic development projects are not coordinated, and the result is flooding.

“Drainage in this parish is divided up into districts, so each little district looks at what affects them. But there’s no overall good planning that keeps developments in one area from causing issues in another area," said Vicknair-Pray. "We need to get some hydrologists in here, environmental engineers who know what they’re looking at.”  

The fourth candidate is Karen Champagne, who says her beliefs reflect the early views of the Tea Party — small government and taxpayer protection. She says fracking is not a parish issue.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to spend taxpayer money fighting an issue like that," Champagne said. "I don’t consider myself a politician. I just consider myself a citizen fighting for the rights of citizens against an overzealous and huge, unlimited government.”   

Early voting in St. Tammany Parish runs October 10 through the 17.