Kevin Blanchard, writing one of his occasional “Inside Report” columns, reviews the intersection of the mayoral race in Lafayette and the fiber-optic project Durel bet on early in his tenure.
The gist is that Durel’s gamble on fiber has paid off in the lack of any credible challenger emerging for his second-term bid.
Durel did take a risk. He had run, to put it bluntly, as the chamber candidate and as an business-like “reform” Republican. Taking on a costly project that was easy to paint as anti-business three or four months in to his term was pretty shocking. Durel was unwavering–even when his major supporters, both in the form of the chamber and the businessmen who had fostered his candidacy, couldn’t find the wherewithal to exhibit the most tepid support. He came out of the chute fighting and really never let up–to the extent of being willing to plainly say things that, while obviously true, distressed orthodox Republicans; for example, pointing out that Cox and BellSouth were “greedy out-of-state monopolists.” Without the Joey Durel and Terry Huval tag team’s aggressive stance it is doubtful that the campaign could have been won.
What was revealed in the course of the fight is pretty shocking: a blunt pro-community, anti-corporate campaign could win, and win big, even in “conservative” Lafayette. When Durel called himself a “progressive republican” on a PBS show last year he was claiming a category he’d created and made credible. Durel has, at least for the moment, remade Lafayette politics.
Interesting days…and I, for one, will be interested to see whether this leads back to a more familiar “big dogs” regime or whether Durel will pursue creating the broader coalition that he’s demonstrated is possible.