"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
In addition to as many as 20 elections this fall for district judge, there are six open district attorney seats. Add to that another five DAs who are expected to be challenged and four more races that are developing slowly with roughly a month to go until qualifying. All in, that's the possibility of as many as 35 races for district judge and district attorney.
"Now you have to wonder if that many will come forward and qualify," said a source tracking the races. "The most DA races I've ever seen in one cycle is around 16 a few decades ago. So this appears to be a slight pickup in action. If about 10 of the races produce challengers to incumbents, and three or four beat an incumbent, I would consider that a pretty big deal. But it's still early."
So far six district attorneys have announced they are not running again or are retiring, including Bob Levy in the 3rd District in Lincoln-Union; Jam Downs in the 9th in Rapides; Phil Haney in the 16th in Iberia-St. Martin-St. Mary; Cecil Sanner in the 38th in Cameron; Walter Reed in the 22nd in St. Tammany-Washington; and David Burton in the 36th in Beauregard.
Consultants already working the races only expect half or less to be actually competitive.
Meanwhile, there are already serious challenges, or competition expected soon, in Lafayette (former ADA Keith Stutes is taking on DA Mike Harson), West Feliciana, St. Landry, Jefferson Davis (DA Mike Cassidy is facing former DA and district judge Wendell Miller) and Terrebonne.
There are also slight possibilities of races in Bienville, St. Bernard, St. John and Caldwell, where DA Mark McKee pushed charges against Sheriff Steve May in court over fixing tickets.
The highest-profile race as of now comes courtesy of St. Tammany DA Water Reed, who has decided not to seek a sixth term while under fire for questionable campaign finance expenditures, management decisions and other activities. Slidell attorney Alan Black, Covington attorney Roy Burns Jr. and chief deputy sheriff Brian Trainor have all expressed interest in running. Burns already has launched the first media buy of the race with a 30-second spot on WNOE.