By Luke Britt
If the 2023 election season is any indication, parish voters are happy with any elected official who isn’t a member of the Union Parish Police Jury.
Voters re-elected incumbents Sheriff Dusty Gates and Sen. Stewart Cathey to another four years in their respective offices, while Clerk of Court Dodi Eubanks, Tax Assessor Lance Futch and Rep. Chris Turner all kept their seats because no one wanted to run against them. Coroner Renee Smith chose not to run for re-election, giving the only candidate to qualify for that office, Leah Harris, the easy win.
The Police Jury, on the other hand, will see at least three new faces and possibly four, depending on the outcome of the Nov. 18 runoff in District 3 between incumbent DeWayne Ramsey and former parish road superintendent Mike Holley.
Jurors Johnny Buckley, Dist. 4, and L.W. Nolan, Dist. 7, were both defeated by wide margins, and
District 6’s Ceis Nyegaard chose not to run again. The exit of these three jurors, who often voted together on issues that split the jury, may forecast a change in direction – or not – for the parish’s primary governing body.
Former District 4 Juror Glenn Hutto defeated Buckley with 67 percent of the vote to regain the seat he lost to Buckley four years ago. In District 7, Jeremy Hobbs defeated Nolan with 62 percent of the vote.
Russell Wade defeated Steve Auger to win the seat left open by Nyegaard’s retirement. Wade won with 57 percent of the vote.
Of the three jurors who were re-elected – Curtis Moses (D-1), Nathan Pilgreen (D-3) and Brenda Abercrombie (D-8) – only Pilgreen did so handily. Moses defeated Charlie Young by 60 votes, a significantly smaller margin than when he won the seat by 170 votes in 2019. Brenda Abercrombie found herself in a statistical dead heat with challenger Ronald Meredith until late precinct returns went largely her way, giving her the win.
Turnout in Union Parish, at 44.1 percent, was about three percent lower than during the 2019 primary, but was still higher than the statewide average. Statewide, only 36.3 percent of eligible voters turned out on Oct 14, with the decrease due largely to a significant drop in votes by democrats. While republican votes statewide were down about six percent, participation by democrats dropped more than 12 percent.
In Union Parish, the lower turnout appears to have occurred almost entirely among democrats. In fact, the number of republican votes cast actually increased this year over 2019 by almost 1,000 votes, while votes by democrats decreased by about the same amount.