Cazes says he’s seeking a fourth term in office as the head of the parish’s law enforcement agency for the same reasons he sought re-election the previous two times.
“As long as I can protect this community and make sure the people of this parish get the best quality of life they deserve, I want to continue being their sheriff,” the 59-year-old Democrat said.
But Maranto, a 45-year-old military vet and no-party candidate, is claiming he can improve community relations, increase officer visibility and strengthen the Sheriff’s Office’s policies and procedures — all without the need of a tax increase.
“I just believe the people aren’t getting their money’s worth,” Maranto said.
The two will face off on Oct. 24, with early voting beginning this Saturday. In the fall 2011 election, Cazes handily defeated Maranto with about 72 percent of the votes compared to the challengers almost 28 percent.
Maranto, who touts more than 25 years of combined experience in local law enforcement and the military, believes he was defeated four years ago because West Baton Rouge voters were resistant to change. He feels Cazes’ popularity with the community might have dipped after voters in March rejected Cazes’ half-cent tax increase proposal.
Cazes at the time said he needed the $2.9 million the proposed tax would have generated every year to address a growing deficit in his $12.9 million operating budget. The sheriff said recently he hoped to use revenue from the tax to replenish his shrinking surplus funds, which he dips into to offset any annual budget shortfalls.
“He made a lot of people mad trying to pass that tax,” Maranto said. “He’s falsely telling people he needs the money. I know I can beef up patrols and increase deputy presence and I don’t have to raise taxes.”
Maranto is also promising to create a neighborhood watch program he wants to personally be involved with, initiate an anti-bullying program in parish schools and create a fair promotion system within the Sheriff’s Office where deputies will move up in rank based on testing methods instead of seniority.
Cazes, who has more than 37 years of experience working in law enforcement in West Baton Rouge Parish, shrugged off Maranto’s claims for needed change, pointing out that the parish’s murder rate has declined and felony convictions have increased under his leadership.
“Our crime stats speak for themselves,” he said.
And Cazes defended his attempt to pass the half-cent sales tax, calling it a pre-emptive measure to generate revenue for projected shortfalls in the future.
“This office is operating on the same millage it’s been operating on for the last 50 years,” Cazes said. “Today, it’s not a strain on the budget, but I was trying to prevent a shortfall in the future.”
Cazes also chided Maranto’s claim he would increase patrols if elected.
The sheriff says there is currently no need for increased police protection on the streets when he already has up to 20 deputies at a time combing the parish to keep streets safe.
Cazes said it’s even mandatory some patrol officers do periodic checks at every school campus in the parish in response to the rise of mass shootings that have taken place across the nation.
“I’m staying on top of things to keep my office the best it can be,” Cazes said. “I’m asking the people to please give me the opportunity and honor to continue serving.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.