CLINTON — To win his fifth term in office, East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Talmadge Bunch must overcome challenges from a well-financed retired corrections official and three law enforcement veterans working with shoestring budgets.
Primary balloting is Oct. 24, and a runoff, if needed, will be Nov. 21.
Early voting for the primary election continues from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday at the Registrar of Voters Office, 11048 Bank St., Clinton.
According to his campaign finance report, challenger Jeff Travis raised $46,680 in contributions between April 4 and Sept. 14 and loaned his campaign $427.
Travis, the youngest candidate in the race at 47, is from a politically prominent East Feliciana Parish family that includes his uncle, longtime state Rep. John Travis, who also served as state banking commissioner.
Jeff Travis retired earlier this year after 25 years with the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, with service as the corrections chief of operations and a stint as warden of Rayburn Correctional Center in Angie.
He reported spending $21,555 during the same period and had $23,171 of his initial fundraising effort left in his campaign account on Sept. 14.
“It’s a very expensive process. Winning is about getting name recognition and letting people know what you’re going to do. We are humbled and honored to have received so much support in our efforts to raise money for this campaign. I think it shows the confidence we have from so many citizens,” Travis said.
Bunch, 67, reported spending $30,046 before Sept. 14, but most of it came from his own pockets. He reported raising only $6,100 in contributions.
“I hate asking people for money. I just went to the bank and borrowed the money,” Bunch said.
Bunch, who was first elected in 1999 and took office in 2000, said he has held only one fundraiser in his five campaigns, a golf tournament eight years ago.
He reported having $5,115 left in his campaign account on Sept. 14 after spending $30,046.
Travis’ and Bunch’s campaign expenditures, while not as lavish as those in other parishes, are nevertheless noteworthy for a rural parish like East Feliciana and overshadow those of their rivals.
Also running in the primary are Troy Abshire, former Clinton assistant police chief; Fred Dunn, Clinton’s police chief; and Richard K. Sobers, a retired Baton Rouge police lieutenant. All the candidates are Democrats.
Abshire, 51, did not report any contributions or expenditures by the Sept. 24 filing deadline, while Dunn, 48, and Sobers, 59, did not report any contributions.
“I haven’t spent any money. I’m more or less campaigning by word of mouth,” Abshire said.
“I’m pretty much doing it myself,” Dunn said of his $2,265 in early campaign expenses.
Sobers reported no contributions and $1,320 in expenses.
Regarding the crowded primary field, Bunch said he has come to expect opposition to his re-election bids.
“When you’ve been there for a long time, you’re going to make some friends, and you’re going to make some enemies. You have to see what weighs out the most,” Bunch said.
Travis said he wants to deliver quality law enforcement services to parish citizens that will maximize public safety for everyone.
“It’s about being connected, visible and accessible to the public. Working with all parish agencies and municipalities to be the best that we can be. We must enforce the law, exercise fairness across the board and embrace those in need in order help them through their problems,” Travis said.
Abshire said he would use his 15 years of experience in law enforcement to bring the parish together and give them the incentive to work with the sheriff to solve outstanding criminal cases. East Feliciana also has problems with drug abuse and bullying of children, while many elderly people need help, Abshire said.
Dunn said parish deputies who patrol the parish and answer calls for help are spread too thin, especially at night.
“Our elderly need help, our teenagers are out of control and nobody wants to do anything,” Dunn said.
Sobers said East Feliciana deputies need better training in areas such as elder abuse, sex crimes and child abuse and in combating drug trafficking and drug abuse. He said he has been contacted by people who say they are frustrated with “getting the run-around or delays” with law enforcement issues.
“That comes from a lack of training,” he said.
Bunch said he is proud that he has been able to keep a promise he made when he first ran for office in 1999: that he would not ask for more taxes to run the Sheriff’s Office.
“I’ll never ask for a new tax,” Bunch said, adding that he hopes the parish can get more businesses and industries to raise the tax base. He said his prisoner work-release program and grants arranged by philanthropist Daryl Pennington have helped his bottom line.
Travis said his relationships with other law enforcement agencies will be an asset to the department, helping supplement existing resources. He likewise said he will not ask for a property tax increase.
“We can’t tax our way into prosperity. The answer to this problem is to be a sheriff who supports the growth of industry in our parish to increase revenue, create jobs and help the local economy. The increase in revenue will bring more dollars to the Sheriff’s Office, which will help with public safety,” Travis said.