Orange incumbents hope to flip run-off
Last updated 5/7/2019 at Noon
For The Record
The incumbent Orange City Council members forced last weekend into a run-off election set for June 15 are upset about their messaging.
“It would have been better if I’d just have won,” Place 6 council member Bill Mello said when asked his reaction to being forced into a runoff by Caroline Mazzola Hennigan, a special education coordinator for Little Cypress-Mauriceville schools.
“It’s very disappointing because the citizens have got to get involved,” District 4 council member Annette Pernell said, looking at the fact that only 285 people voted in her three-candidate race.
She said about 10 times that many District 4 residents voted in the November 2018 county, state and federal election.
Both Mello and Pernell came up second in the voting to an opponent who failed to get the 50 percent plus one vote majority needed to avoid a run-off.
Mary McKenna, a third-time opponent for Pernell, came within three votes of winning outright, racking up 140 votes to 100 for Pernell and 45 for third-place finisher Alan Mesecher.
Hennigan grabbed 39.3 percent of the vote in the at-large election in which every eligible Orange voter was eligible to participate. She had 402 votes, Mello got 293, Charles Ray Thomas, distant runnerup for mayor a year ago, won 242 votes and David C. Bailey 85 votes.
Mello, who is running for his fifth consecutive term, was hospitalized with what turned out to be brain cancer in mid-January. He says he feels positive after starting treatment and therapy.
But he’s not enjoying social media upset about the $8 million certificates of indebtedness council renewed several months ago. The biggest amount of that is going for road repairs but some has been dedicated to building a pavilion at the Boat Ramp that would be used at fishing tournaments and other events.
“I hear a bunch of people complaining about that bond, but if we didn’t renew that bond, we’d have to start all over with a new interest rate the next time we need project funds. Or maybe we couldn’t get bonds at all,” Mello said.
He restated his position that the city had lost one large fishing tournament that bought 530 motel nights because its organizers had been upset about having to pay less than $10,000 to rent a tent to hold its weigh-in.
He said that three BassMaster Elite tournaments had brought nearly $8 million to city coffers and that besides fishing tournaments, a roofed pavilion could also host music concerts or other events.
Pernell is upset more people don’t vote – or recognize her efforts on behalf of the city.
“Citizens have to understand those of us who put our names on the ballot, put our names on so we can work for them,” she said. “If they don’t get out and vote and really pay attention to what’s happening, it’s not going to be good on their behalf.
“I’ve worked hard to get as much info as I can to better my city. I don’t want to think it’s done in vain.”
Hennigan wants another candidate forum before the run-off election begins with absentee voting June 3-11. Pernell wants a debate with McKenna, who said she was happy with voter turnout.
“I think it was awesome that people turned out,” said McKenna, who beat Pernell in 2013 before losing to her in 2016.
“We’ll do it all again. Hopefully, they’ll all turn out again and we’ll have a bigger, better, brighter Orange.”
In the one county race that drew the biggest turnout last Saturday, opponents of a proposed $46.1 million bond election by the Bridge City school district won by a 2-1 majority, getting 1,604 of the 2,340 votes cast (68.5 percent).
Incumbents Demetrius Hunter and Linda Platt-Bryant and board newcomer Gina Simar won the three at-large seats on the West Orange-Cove school board.
Incumbent Jerry McInnis won another term at Bridge City ISD. Chris Riedel will join unopposed Derry Dunn in being seated at LCMCISD.
In the city of West Orange, incumbent Randy Branch and machinist Brent Dearing won alderman seats.