East Baton Rouge's longtime sheriff, Sid Gautreaux, secured another term Saturday night, successfully fending off challenges from two Democratic candidates.
Gautreaux was first elected sheriff in 2007 after Elmer Litchfield resigned for health reasons following more than two decades in office. Gautreaux ran as a Democrat in that election, but then switched parties and won again as a Republican in 2011.
During this year's campaign, Gautreaux highlighted what he said was a significant decrease in violent crime and an increase in the quality of community relations during his tenure. That's despite some notable challenges: the 2016 ambush on law enforcement in Baton Rouge that left three officers dead, including a sheriff's deputy, and devastating floods that followed just weeks later.
Gautreaux faced a familiar rival in Mark Milligan, a retired Baton Rouge police officer who previously challenged the incumbent in 2007 and 2011.
Milligan, who hoped to be the parish's first black sheriff, criticized Gautreaux during the campaign on two fronts: persistent substandard conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and the sheriff's decision to sign an agreement with federal immigration officials in 2017 that allows deputies to check the citizenship status of people booked into jail.
The third candidate for sheriff, Charles "Carlos" Jean Jr., similarly criticized Gautreaux for his agreement with ICE.
Gautreaux defended the decision, saying it boosts efficiency inside the local jail and streamlines the booking process, despite what he called misinformation circulating among opponents. He emphasized that the agreement "starts and stops at the prison" and has resulted in no substantial changes to immigration enforcement in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Gautreaux said his administration has made significant progress building trust within the parish's Hispanic community. He touted successes particularly in the Gardere area, where he said crime has decreased during his tenure, in part thanks to bike patrols and efforts to hire more Spanish-speaking deputies.
His Democratic challengers pledged during the campaign to improve conditions inside the jail, which Gautreaux has long argued is outdated and must be replaced. Voters have repeatedly rejected tax proposals to fund construction of a new facility.
The sheriff's office has come under fire in recent years for a high inmate death rate, in addition to allegations of inadequate medical and mental health care inside the jail. Gautreaux has consistently directed questions about healthcare to the private company in charge of providing those services, noting that the jail population is often unhealthy to begin with. That company, CorrectHealth, took over medical operations in 2017 and donated $1,000 to Gautreaux's campaign in recent weeks, campaign finance reports show.
The sheriff has also bemoaned the influx of people with mental illness who often end up incarcerated because there's no room for them within the state's notoriously underfunded psychiatric system. He has pledged his support for the Bridge Center, a mental health crisis facility set to open in the coming months.
SID GAUTREAUX III
RESIDES: Lifelong Baker resident
EDUCATION: Graduated from Baker High School; attended Northwestern University and University of Virginia but didn't graduate; graduated from FBI National Academy and LSU Law Enforcement Institute.
PROFESSIONAL: Baker Police Chief 1980-2007; East Baton Rouge Sheriff 2007-present.
POLITICAL: Republican since 2010, previously a registered Democrat.