Two challengers for the Albany-area justice of the peace seat withdrew from the race Friday, one day after 73-year-old incumbent Max Owens blew out the candles on his birthday cake.
Owens has been justice of the peace for Livingston Parish’s Ward 4 for 36 years and will serve another six-year term following the withdrawals of Summer Farkas Owens and Lisa Frederick.
Owens said Farkas Owens, his niece-in-law who works part time in his office, signed up for the race in case a recent state law banning anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable prevented him from seeking re-election.
The age limit has been on the books since 2006 but included a grandfather provision exempting anyone elected before that year. A new law enacted this year sought to remove that exemption.
Owens said his niece was well qualified for office, and he intended to back her in the race if he couldn’t run.
Frederick, the Parish Council clerk whose sister is married to Farkas Owens’ brother, said she joined the race to ensure voters would have a choice if Owens were forced into retirement.
“Nobody wants to run against an incumbent, but I wasn’t going to let him just give it to her,” Frederick said Friday. “The public would not have had a chance to vote on anybody, and there’s nothing democratic about that.”
Frederick’s and Farkas Owens’ withdrawals came one week after a Baton Rouge state judge indefinitely blocked enforcement of the age-restrictive law.
Both women said they would consider running for the seat again in the future.
Owens expressed disappointment in talk of “constables packing guns and wheelchairs and all that. Nothing was ever said about constables below 70 packing guns.”
He said the law “ain’t totally straight yet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s straight enough for the next six years.”
Owens said he keeps working to pay for nursing services for his wife. The couple celebrated their 51st anniversary this past week.
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