With a shade over 1500 early ballots cast in the 2011 Port Arthur City Council runoff election for the District 4 and Position 7 seats, there’s only one day left for the residents of those respective areas to decide who they want to represent them for the next three years.
Election Day is Saturday, June 25.
In what has been a dichotomy of races, the Position 7 race between longtime Port Arthur political veteran Willie “Bae” Lewis and newcomer Derrick Freeman has been contentious to say the least, with phony fliers and misconstrued TV sound bites shaping a race that appears headed for a photo finish.
“When it gets personal, you lose sight of the issues,” said Lewis, “the voter is looking for improvement on the city council, they’ve got economic problems, and we need industry to bring more jobs to put our people to work.”
Lewis, 67, and a 21-year veteran of the city council, said he’s happy with the way his campaign has functioned during the runoff campaign. “We’ve done great, and the voters have clearly displayed and talked to me that they want some experience along with those newly elected.”
Freeman, 35, who denied having anything to do with the flier that claimed Position 7 incumbent D. Kay Wise was supporting him instead of Lewis, said he’s learned quite a bit during his first venture into local politics.
“I’ve really seen the personal agendas that some people have harbored in their hearts,” Freeman said.
But he hasn’t allowed the personal attacks to get him down. “I see how it can get personal, but I’ve released myself of it, I’ve had to pray hard to forgive and forget, because I can see how you can get drug into it very easily. But we’re still pushing hard, we’re keeping things above board and I think Port Arthur’s tired of the negativity, the politics, the stagnation, and a lot of it is people can’t get past personal agendas.”
In the relatively calm District 4 race, Harold Doucet, 61, said he’s not surprised by the low early voter turnout because he feels it’s a reflection of the voters expressing their discontent from not receiving any satisfaction from their previous council representation. Doucet, a retired 30-year Army veteran, looks to change that apathy.
“We need to ensure that the things we do start being reflected,” Doucet said. “Actions speak louder than words. We need to start showing results. Cleaning up the city, fixing the roads, start dropping the unemployment rate, and people are going to automatically start changing their mindset. It’s up to us, right now, we need to show the people. Don’t say it, don’t promise it, just get out there and do it. Everybody knows what needs to be done. There’s nothing to try and figure out.”
Doucet feels like he’s in a pretty good position, considering he garnered the most votes in the general election, 441, while his opponent, Field, captured 305. As of Wednesday, Jun. 22, there were roughly 400 early votes that had been cast in District 4.
“I feel the race will be over at 7 p.m. (Tuesday),” Doucet said, echoing a popular sentiment shared by the candidates.
“The key is to win early voting,” Lewis said.
“That’s the conventional thinking,” said Ronnie Linden, a self-proclaimed political junkie and former Port Arthur City Councilman who agreed that more often than not, a candidate isn’t going to make up a huge difference if trailing on Election Day.
Field said he “feels good about Saturday, we’ve done everything we can do. We’ve worked hard, as have all the candidates.”
The 70-year-old Field, who is proud of the positive campaign he’s run, said he would like to see this recent campaign set an example in politics for how a clean, friendly campaign can be demonstrated. “When we get in these offices, it’s important we set the tone, and I think that needs to be redefined, people need to rethink their positions on these things and start being a positive role model for our community and our city in general.
“People are hurting out there and they need people that are credible and are going to represent them. I’m not saying that’s not being done, I’m just saying that hasn’t been done enough.”
All four men plan to keep working the phones and the streets the next three days, and they all have different plans for Election Night. Lewis is taking his team out to eat, Freeman and his supporters have a gathering planned while Doucet said he’s going to stay at home and Field will be at the Civic Center waiting on the results.
Stephen Mosely, executive director of The Breeze radio station in Port Arthur, which hosted a debate featuring the runoff candidates, said this is an important election and whoever wins needs to understand how to handle the city’s business and the needs of the people.
“I hope whoever wins, they are studious about the issues that affect the people.”