Controversy increases as Clinton mayoral runoff approaches

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 10:22pm

The two candidates still running for mayor of Clinton have staged a campaign that has gotten more heated since the general election.

Bitterness between Mayor Don Reason and Lori Ann Bell began the day Reason took office four years ago, when the town Board of Aldermen, including Bell, fought his appointments.

With higher stakes come higher tensions and nasty allegations.

"I think it's humorous," said David Maltese, a Clinton resident. "I think it's Louisiana politics at its best."

But the race has been anything but funny for Reason and Bell.

They were separated by just one vote in last month's general election. Since then, there was an accusation of voter fraud, intimidating letters, and prank calls threatening to have Bell arrested for bribery.

Reason says he is disappointed at the tone of the race, but has not stopped campaigning to gain votes.

"We've been going around, we've been making phone calls, we've been greeting people on the streets," he said.

When asked about his basis for deserving re-election, Reason points to his track record bringing in grant money. He claims to have received approximately $3.5 million for things like a sewer project, new maintenance equipment, and a new fire station, the facility for which was purchased Tuesday.

"This administration has gotten more money than the last, I want to say five administrations put together," he said.

His critics say he only cares about the money, whether it goes to a worthy project or not.

"I have no regrets about the last four years or anything," Reason countered, "and I'm just looking for four more years."

Reason and Clinton residents describe growth and the economy as the town's biggest challenge. But they disagree on whether the gains they want to see can actually be achieved.

Maltese believes the town needs to modernize and attract new high-tech companies, but he also wants to, "see it happen in a manner to where we don't get too big, and kind of outgrow what makes Clinton great," he said.

"I would love to have industry, but where am I going to put it at? Infrastructure for the town of Clinton is not built for any major industry," Reason said. "We're looking for place to put people to work. We're looking really hard. But it's not around here, not right now."

And that may be Reason's biggest hurdle to re-election, if voters do not respond to what he says he has accomplished.

"I think they've kind of leveled out," Maltese said. "They haven't really gone down, haven't gone up, they've just been kind of, I guess, moving along at a steady pace. And sometimes, steady's just not good enough."

Bell did not respond to several calls for comment regarding Saturday's election.

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