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Ricky Templet leads in fundraising for Jefferson Parish Council at-large race

Templet, who faces Council member Jennifer Van Vrancken for the post, raised $266,000 in the latest reporting period

Blake Paterson | Original Article

Jefferson Parish Council member Ricky Templet has quickly outpaced his colleagues in fundraising ahead of what is expected to be an intense and costly election in October among four sitting council members vying for two at-large seats on the Parish Council.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Templet raked in $266,150 in contributions in the first four months of 2023, while his opponent in the race for the Div. A at-large seat, Council member Jennifer Van Vrancken, raised just $11,251.

The windfall puts Templet, who is the incumbent in the race, neck-and-neck with Van Vrancken in terms of overall campaign cash six months out from the Oct. 14 election: Templet has $436,955 and Van Vrancken has $504,680, finance reports show.

So far, the bulk of Van Vrancken’s cash has come from her personal bank account. She loaned her campaign $423,614 late last year in anticipation of a statewide run for lieutenant governor. Templet has loaned his campaign $100,000.

In the contest for the Div. B at-large seat, Council member Scott Walker, the incumbent, collected $60,200 in the first four months of the year, while his opponent, Council member Dominick Impastato, raised $110,800, according to campaign finance reports.

Impastato loaned an additional $75,479 to his campaign, bringing his total cash on hand to $284,632. Walker, who has yet to make a personal loan to his campaign, reported $176,208 in his campaign bank account.

The hotly-contested at-large races could cost candidates as much as $1 million this election cycle, some political consultants estimated.

Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, who is unlikely to face a formidable challenger in her bid for a second term, reported raising no money. Her campaign bank account has $179,986.

Among Templet’s biggest donors was Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson Jr. who contributed $20,000 -- $5,000 each from Lawson personally, his campaign account, and through two of his businesses: Lawson Properties and Metro Gaming & Amusement Co. Lawson’s wife, Brenda, donated an additional $5,000. Lawson's son, Brett, is Templet's chief of staff.

But the biggest source of campaign cash for Parish Council candidates are engineering, architecture and consulting firms, in part because Parish Council members have the power to award parish contracts.

At least three firms have maxed out on donations to all four at-large candidates: All South Consulting Engineering; BLD Services LLC; and Linfield Hunter & Junius, Inc.

The Gretna-based architecture firm Burgdahl & Graves and its owners Russell Burgdahl and Evan Graves each gave Templet the maximum $5,000 donation.

The latest campaign finance report covers fundraising and spending from Jan. 1 to April 7. During that period, Impastato spent $51,731; Van Vrancken spent $44,170; Walker spent $37,825; and Templet spent $24,849.

Much of those funds went to political consultants. Impastato spent $7,500 hiring local demographer Greg Rigamer of BPDC, LLC. And Van Vrancken paid Arsement Media Group of Lafayette $15,000 and The Political Firm of Baton Rouge $5,000 for consulting services.

Walker spent $3,900 on campaign advertisements in Jambalaya News Louisiana, a local publication that serves the Spanish-speaking community.

The candidates must file their next finance reports by July 17 to cover fundraising and spending from April 7 to July 6.

Van Vrancken, who is term-limited in her Metairie-based District 5 seat, said she was too busy coordinating events like Family Gras and the St. Patrick’s Day Metairie Road Parade – in which she served as a grand marshal – to raise money.

“The first quarter of the year for me is the busiest in my district,” she said. “I was not fundraising. I will get to fundraising now, but the job always comes first.”

Templet, meanwhile, said he’s already raised another $100,000 since the last campaign finance report was filed on April 7.

The parish's elections are Oct. 14.

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