Running for office: East Feliciana Parish sheriff _lowres

Jeff Travis

Retired corrections official Jeff Travis said he will spend the next eight months working toward doing the best job he can as sheriff of East Feliciana Parish.

Travis, 47, defeated four-term incumbent Sheriff Talmadge Bunch and three other candidates in Saturday’s primary election, avoiding a runoff with 53 votes to spare.

Travis had 3,688 votes to 2,751 for Bunch. Both men got nearly one-third of their votes through early voting, according to unofficial figures from the East Feliciana Clerk of Court’s Office.

Troy Abshire got 71 votes in the race, while Richard K. Sobers had 86 and Fred Dunn finished third with 672.

Turnout for the sheriff’s race was the same as for governor in East Feliciana Parish, 52.7 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office website.

Travis takes office on July 1.

“I’ll be trying to deliver the very best services to the people as I can. I promise to work hard to do the right things,” Travis said Monday.

Bunch had no hard feelings about the loss.

“I’m tickled to death,” Bunch, 67, said on Monday.

“If the people had let me know they didn’t want me, I wouldn’t have run,” Bunch said, adding that many people, however, had urged him to seek a fifth term. He said a factor in his loss was an apparent loss of support by black voters.

“I’ve been blessed, and I can hold my head up. I’m grateful the people let me serve this parish for 16 years,” Bunch said.

Travis said he has not made decisions on filling the key positions in his administration, including chief criminal and civil deputies. He said he plans to form a transition team to help him make decisions on personnel and the direction he should take to “give the taxpayers the best bang for their buck.”

Travis said he will continue the prison work-release program Bunch instituted to help finance his office.

“It’s been a good funding resource, and I will try to improve it,” he said.

He said Bunch will still be sheriff for the next eight months and he is asking people to support him until his term ends. “We want to make a good transition,” Travis said.

Travis retired in April after serving in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections for 25 years, most recently as the chief of corrections operations.

“It was a big decision to leave corrections, but I felt I was being led by God,” he said.

Travis said he has received an outpouring of support from the heads of other law enforcement agencies across the state, including offers of help in training and other areas.

Travis said Bunch called him with congratulations Saturday night, which he said is a mark of the incumbent’s character.

“He’s got his hands full, but Jeff’s a good fellow and he’s going to do a good job,” Bunch said.

Travis raised more than $48,000 in contributions between April and Oct. 4 and reported spending more than $27,000. According to his campaign finance report, he had about $19,000 on hand as the primary neared.

Bunch’s campaign was mostly self-funded, and he reported spending more than $35,000 in his re-election bid.

In other races Saturday, incumbent Clerk of Court David Dart easily defeated his lone opponent, Gwen Collins-Greenup, with 4,396 votes to her 2,493.

Veteran Clinton-area Police Juror Larry Beauchamp was the only jury candidate to lose his seat in Saturday’s balloting, with Michael Cheatham outpolling Beauchamp, 537 to 424.

Voters returned incumbent jurors Chris Hall, Keith Mills and Louis J. Kent to office.

Hall defeated challenger George Turner, 579 to 131; Mills had 370 votes to J.D. Dantzler Jr.’s 169 and Kent beat Odis W. Bee, 607 to 308.

Voters renewed a 1-mill property tax for the parish communications district, which operates the 911 telephone system and dispatches emergency calls for all parish agencies. The vote was 4,827 to 1,947.

Voters also renewed three parishwide school tax renewal propositions for 10 years: a 1-cent sales tax by 4,258 to 2,377; a second sales tax by a vote of 4,248 to 2,512; and a 17-mill property tax, 4,216 to 2,561.