In the race for Alexandria mayor, state Rep. Jeff Hall loads his campaign with massive debt.

Jeff Hall has spent $21,163.92 on campaign signage, accounting for 42% of the money he has raised in donations. Photo credit: Jeff Hall for Mayor.

Regardless of who wins, the next mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana is guaranteed to make history, following Mayor Jacques Roy’s decision to forgo running for a fourth term. Before Roy’s win in 2006, there hadn’t been a competitive mayoral campaign in twenty years. Ned Randolph, a former state senator, had easily coasted into City Hall in five consecutive elections before his retirement.

For the first time in more than 200 years, there isn’t a white man on the ballot. If Jeff Hall wins, he would become the city’s first-ever African American mayor. If either of his two challengers, attorneys Catherine Davidson and Kay Michiels, were to win, one of them would become the first woman to occupy the Second Floor. (Davidson, it’s worth noting, could make history in more than one way. She would also become the first openly gay mayor ever elected in Louisiana). 

All three candidates are Democrats. 

Hall, a two-term state representative who had previously run for mayor four years ago, had been largely presumed to be the frontrunner, at least in the primary election on Nov. 6. However, financial disclosures, which were publicly reported on Oct. 9, reveal that Hall is loading up his campaign with massive debt, notable for an election in which fewer than 15,000 people are likely to vote. Thus far, he has loaned his campaign $85,000, accounting for more than 62% of his total contributions and allowing his campaign to appear, at least on paper, to be financially solvent. In actuality, Hall has spent $28,293 more than he raised in donations.

Although Catherine Davidson had made an early splash, she reported less than $9,000 cash-on-hand, after spending more than half of her campaign fund on yard signs, t-shirts, and Facebook advertising.

Meanwhile, Kay Michiels, an attorney and the former chief operating officer for outgoing Mayor Jacques Roy, has raised $139,000 and spent less than either of her two opponents, leaving her with slightly more than $117,000 in the bank.  

According to several sources, at least two different polls have been recently conducted, the results of which have not been released to the public. Both suggest that Hall is well below the 50.1% he would need to win outright and that the election remains difficult to gauge.

While it is not unusual for independently wealthy candidates to lend money to their campaigns, Hall reported less than $5,000 in business income last year and also claimed that he had not made any financial transactions worth more than $5,000, highly unusual for a person who also asserts his wealth is in mutual funds. Hall also neglected to include the salary he earns as a state legislator on his most recent personal financial disclosure report, despite the fact that his business, apparently, is an accounting and tax preparation firm. 

Taken together, the campaign and personal financial disclosure reports raise serious questions. Hall, a former executive-level officer at CLECO, owns a home in the gated community of Rue Left Bank that is currently assessed at $589,000 and farmland in Grant Parish worth less than $100,000. He did not rely on an outside financial institution for his $85,000 in campaign loans.

Hall’s campaign expenditures are also unusual.

He has spent more than $21,000 for campaign signs, another $7,300 for a D.C.-based Republican political consultant (originally from Alexandria), nearly $10,000 for rental furniture, $750 for lawn care, and $3,900 for locals to assist with “campaign literature distribution.”

In addition to paying a D.C. consultant, Hall is also paying a salary to a former employee of his sister, Wanda Hall Davis, during her tenure as the head of the Alexandria Housing Authority. Davis was fired from her position after a legislative auditor’s report revealed she had made unauthorized payments to herself of more than $185,000 and nearly $350,000 in unauthorized payments to her top staffers. 

Hall’s campaign should be $28,000 in the red, but because of his personal loans, it shows a positive balance of $57,000. 

The reports submitted by Davidson and Michiels, on the other hand, are fairly standard, based on a comprehensive review of campaign spending in Alexandria during the past sixteen years.  

All three candidates share many of the same donors, though Hall is the only candidate who has accepted donations from political action committees and Davidson is the only candidate whose top contributors are almost entirely from outside of Central Louisiana.