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Trial lawyer taps own wealth for St. John run

Probably it’s no surprise that a high-profile trial lawyer who often brags about his wealth has the largest war chest among the six candidates vying to be St. John the Baptist Parish’s next parish president, a group that includes incumbent Natalie Robottom.

Danny Becnel Jr., D-LaPlace — who likes to say, “I’ve handled every case that starts with a ‘b,’ for billions” — has said all along that he wouldn’t accept any campaign contributions. He doesn’t need to.

Becnel, 71, won’t even be taking the parish president’s $150,000 salary if elected. “I’ll set up a committee to give it to local charities,” he said.

Since Aug. 26, he’s put at least $72,000 of his own money into his campaign. He’d spent about $42,000 by Oct. 4.

Robottom, D-LaPlace, is basically keeping pace, though she is raising money from contributors rather than her own bank account.

She came into 2015 with $30,000 in her coffers, and she has raised at least another $41,000 since January.

As for the other candidates, DeLisa Brown, D-LaPlace, comes in third, having raised about $23,000 since May.

Kent St. Amant, R-LaPlace, has raised $11,850; Charles Julien, D-Reserve, has received $10,850; and Terry Gene Lewis Sr., D-Mount Airy, has $2,770.

Like Becnel, Lewis is financing his own campaign. He’s just doing it on a tighter budget.

"I know money sometimes wins political offices, but I'm standing on who I am, and that should propel me to office," he said.

St. Charles councilman leads in fundraising

In the wide-open St. Charles Parish president’s race, Parish Council Chairman Larry Cochran, D-St. Rose, is easily the financial juggernaut of the four candidates vying to replace incumbent V.J. St. Pierre Jr.

Cochran, who is completing his second term representing the 4th District, had received about $150,000 in campaign donations as of early October and already had spent about $140,000, recently filed campaign finance reports show. He also is the only candidate in the race who began fundraising in 2014.

By comparison, the finances of the only other current council member in the race look paltry.

At-large Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre, R-Destrehan, had received $17,315 — including $2,000 from herself — and spent about $11,507.

She said her plan is to keep her spending “very limited.”

“I don’t think a campaign should be run in terms of financial interests,” she said.

Schexnaydre was easily outpaced in fundraising by retired Sheriff’s Office administrator John Cornwell, D-Luling, who has brought in about $77,000 — or about half of what Cochran has raised.

But $40,000 of Cornwell’s tally was from a personal loan to his campaign. He had spent only about $11,500 by Sept. 14.

Bringing up the rear in fundraising so far is former Councilman Terry Authement, R-Boutte.

He has received about $11,500 this year and spent $9,500 of it, according to his most recent campaign finance filings.

Assessor admits he’s not an appraiser

A voter trying to appraise the qualifications of candidates in the race for St. Tammany Parish assessor might have to reassess the information in a flier sent out by incumbent Louis Fitzmorris.

In the mailer, Fitzmorris describes himself as a reformer and lists his accomplishments since taking over the office from Patricia Schwarz Core two and a half years ago.

He adds that he “is a LA certified appraiser successfully completing over 136 hours of classroom training and testing.”

But Fitzmorris is not a certified appraiser. Rather, he’s a certified assessor, a designation he received through the Louisiana Assessor Association and the International Association of Assessing Officers.

Chip Bankston, the lawyer who is running against Fitzmorris, spotted the erroneous claim, saying he could find no record of the incumbent’s certification as an appraiser.

Fitzmorris admitted the mistake, saying the flier should have said “Louisiana certified assessor.”

“I apologize and take responsibility for any confusion this may have caused,” he said. “It should have been caught during the review process.”

Fitzmorris said there was no intention on his part to mislead anyone. “I am not nor have I claimed to be a ‘licensed’ appraiser,” he said.

The difference, he explained, is that assessors do mass appraisals of real estate for the public, and appraisers do individual appraisals in the private market.

Compiled by Benjamin Alexander-Bloch and Sara Pagones