Amid a slew of unflattering media reports about 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed’s campaign expenditures and business ventures, and with federal agents showing up at Reed’s office armed with grand-jury subpoenas, it’s no wonder that, for the first time in 18 years, some local lawyers are actively expressing an interest in running for the post.
Several names are being tossed around as potential candidates, but as of Friday, only Roy Burns, a Covington lawyer, was willing to say he is definitely in the race. That was confirmed by James Hartman, whom Burns has hired as a political consultant.
Another rumored candidate, District Judge Raymond Childress, said he was honored that his name had come up and that the job “was certainly something to consider.” But he said he had made no decision and noted that if he did opt to throw his hat in the ring, he would be required to resign his judicial post. Childress faces re-election Nov. 4 as well.
Another rumored candidate, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Trainor, said the post is something he would consider. Trainor said a number of people have reached out to him and pledged their support should he decide to run.
If he was elected, Trainor said, “it would be an honor to serve as district attorney,” but he emphasized that he is also proud to serve in his current position.
Reed, who has been the district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes since 1984, has not faced a challenger since 1996. He has given no formal indication of whether he will run this year, though he filed his 180-days-prior-to-primary campaign finance disclosure form with the state Ethics Administration, showing that he had $319,102 in his war chest.
Fracking debate takes extra-terrestrial tangent
In the heated debate over whether a fracking oil well should be permitted in St. Tammany Parish, the rhetoric has now gone interplanetary.
In a Facebook post, Rick Franzo, the head of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, blasted Parish President Pat Brister for an interview she gave on WWL-AM earlier this week. During the interview, Brister said the parish would do what it could to mitigate the impact of any wells in St. Tammany but that the authority for permitting wells lies with the state. She called Helis Oil & Gas a “very reputable” company and said Edward Poitevent, the man who owns the land on which Helis wants to drill, has a “right to use his land.”
That was too much for Franzo, who fired off a lengthy missive urging Brister to read John F. Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” to learn how to put her constituents before political gain. Then he went stratospheric.
“Listening too (sic) Ms. Brister (sic) comments (and) monotone speech I am reminded of a character from the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ It’s like the real Pat Brister has been replaced by an alien from the planet Oil & Gas. Her duplicate, as a perfect copy, is devoid of human feelings and has been sent to earth on a mission to turn every inch of our planet into a fuel source for her home planet,” Franzo wrote.
A spokesman for Brister said Franzo’s comments were not worth a response.
“This is a serious discussion with serious consequences,” Ronnie Simpson said. “Personal attacks and UFO references are a waste of everyone’s time.”
Spreading the good news, burying the bad
News releases coming out of City Hall — or from any political shop, for that matter — tend to showcase press secretaries’ remarkable talent for celebrating triumphs while airbrushing out any semblance of unpleasantness.
A Landrieu administration communiqué issued this week on the city’s crime statistics was a paragon of the form.
It trumpeted a 30 percent drop in murders during the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same time frame last year, and pronounced that murder “is down to historic levels.” The drop seen in the first quarter, coming on the heels of a significant decrease last year, had already been fairly well documented in news reports a few months ago.
The real news in the new first-quarter crime data related to upticks in other major crimes, many of which saw eye-popping jumps compared to the same time in 2013. Rapes were up 65 percent, armed robberies up 66 percent, simple robberies up 44 percent, assaults up 32 percent, thefts up 23 percent and car thefts up 40 percent.
Those major increases were dismissed in one sentence of the news release, with no mention of the magnitude of the jumps. The lone exception was rape, and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas hailed that rising number as evidence that more victims are willing to come forward than in the past, thanks to improvements in the Police Department.
Compiled by staff writers Faimon A. Roberts III and Gordon Russell.