Four of five BR area DAs win re-election without opposition

Four of the five district attorneys in the Baton Rouge area all won re-election Friday afternoon without having to do anything more than pay a qualifying fee.

The same is true for eight of the 15 state judges who serve on the 19th Judicial District Court, all of whom also did not attract opponents in their re-election bids.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III on Friday credited the hard work of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program, which targets crime hotspots and repeat violent offenders, for part of the success his office has had during his first term, leading to an unopposed election win. He praised his staff’s hard work, along with the cooperation of other law enforcement agencies.

“All of these people have worked together so well for six years, especially on BRAVE,” the 59-year-old Democrat said. “We still have a long way to go.”

The chief prosecutors in several surrounding areas also won re-election Friday when no one signed up to oppose them, including 18th Judicial District Attorney Ricky Ward Jr., 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux and 23rd Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin.

“I think it’s a good indicator that the people are satisfied with my office,” said Ward, a Democrat who has been the district attorney for West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes for 24 years. “I feel very privileged that I’ll be able to serve as the DA for another six years.”

Perrilloux, whose district includes Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes, and Babin are Republicans.

“I’m just grateful,” Babin said of winning a second six-year term as the DA for Ascension, St. James and Assumption parishes. “I’ve learned a lot in five and a half years. I really have.”

Babin and three others battled six years ago to replace outgoing District Attorney Tony Falterman. Babin narrowly led the October 2008 primary over former state Rep. Louis Lambert, the second leading vote-getter. Lambert withdrew before a runoff could be held, seeking to avoid what he said would have been an intense and divisive campaign.

Twentieth Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla was not as fortunate as Ward, Moore, Babin and Perrilloux, drawing a challenge from David Opperman, a Democrat. The 20th JDC encompasses East and West Feliciana parishes.

In addition to the district attorney races, qualifying also ended Friday for all 15 seats on the 19th Judicial District Court for East Baton Rouge Parish, as well as four seats on the Baton Rouge-based state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

The 19th JDC seat being vacated by retiring state District Judge Kay Bates drew five candidates: Cleveland Coon, a Democrat, and Republicans Mike Davis, Beau Higginbotham, Chris Oetjens and Jamie Morain Zanovec. Higginbotham, a former prosecutor in Moore’s office, is the son of 1st Circuit Judge Toni Higginbotham.

The 19th JDC judges who attracted challengers are Trudy White, Bonnie Jackson, Richard Anderson, Todd Hernandez, Mike Erwin and Mike Caldwell.

White is being opposed by Gideon Carter III and state Rep. Alfred Williams. The Secretary of State’s office listed all three as Democrats. White and Carter ran against 1st Circuit Judge Mike McDonald in 2012, with the incumbent McDonald beating Carter in a runoff. White missed the runoff.

Jackson will square off against fellow Democrats Tiffany Foxworth and Nina Hunter. Anderson, a Republican, drew a challenge from Joyce Plummer, a Democrat. Hernandez, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Colette Greggs. Erwin, a Democrat, will face off against Republican Metro Council member Trae Welch. Caldwell drew opposition from fellow Republican Randy Piedrahita.

The 19th JDC judges re-elected without opposition to new six-year terms were Don Johnson, Janice Clark, Wilson Fields, Chip Moore, Lou Daniel, William Morvant, Tim Kelley and Tony Marabella Jr. Johnson. Clark and Fields are Democrats; Moore, Daniel, Morvant, Kelley and Marabella are Republicans.

First Circuit Judges Jewel “Duke” Welch and Ernie Drake Jr., both Republicans, were re-elected Friday without opposition to 10-year terms on the appellate court.

Twenty-first Judicial District Court Judge Wayne Ray Chutz won automatic election to the 1st Circuit when no one else qualified to run for the appeals court seat being vacated at the end of the year by the retiring James Kuhn.

Twenty-third JDC Judge Guy Holdridge also was elected to the 1st Circuit when only he qualified to run for the appellate court seat currently held by Randolph Parro, who is retiring at year’s end.

Advocate staff writers Terry Jones and David Mitchell contributed to this story.