Longtime prosecutor Antonio "Tony" Clayton has made his bid to become the west side's next District Attorney official on the opening day for candidate qualifications for the Nov. 3 election.
Clayton, who qualified Wednesday as a Democrat, seeks to replace 18th Judicial District Attorney Richard J. Ward Jr., who plans to retire when his term ends this year after nearly 30 years in charge of the prosecutor's office.
Clayton announced his plans to seek the position in February and has since been focusing heavily on social media marketing as well as billboards throughout the largely suburban and rural district covering Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes.
"It’s a real solemn kind of feeling," he said a few hours after qualifying. "It kind of made it real today."
Earlier this year, Ward appointed Clayton to the second-highest position in the DA's office. In his announcement, Ward touched on Clayton's high conviction rate as a prosecutor since joining the office in the 1990s.
Among the notable convictions in Clayton's tenure include serial killers Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Gillis, who acted separately when they killed a combined 15 women across the capital region in the 1990s and early 2000s. Lee received the death penalty but died before it was carried out in 2016. Gillis received a life sentence.
Clayton graduated from Brusly High School in 1981 and earned his law degree from Southern University.
He began his criminal justice career in 1992 for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office and also served for a time on the Louisiana Supreme Court as an ad-hoc judge for the 19th Judicial District Court. He then returned to the East Baton Rouge DA's office before crossing the river to head felony trials.
Clayton has said plans to run the office similar to how his current boss has operated for the past three decades.
Still, he has said he also sees room for improving relations with the faith community, an ambition he hopes will lead to a drop in the number of violent crimes.
By noon Wednesday, no other candidates have entered the race. Qualifications for candidates run until Friday.