Sorrento police chief race now down to 2 candidates

One of three candidates who qualified last week in the Nov. 4 election for Sorrento police chief has withdrawn for personal reasons.

C.J. Martin, 42, declined to describe those reasons in a brief interview Friday but said they came up recently and were not related to the election “or any of the town’s history.”

“That’s all I’m going to say about my personal life,” said Martin, a machinist and U.S. Navy veteran with no formal law enforcement training.

Martin said he filed withdrawal papers Wednesday with the Ascension Parish clerk of court.

The Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office was notified at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, office spokeswoman Meg Casper said. The office’s website lists Martin, the only Republican in the race, as having withdrawn by Friday afternoon.

Martin’s departure leaves Fern Barnett, 71, a Democrat and retired Sorrento town and police clerk, and Jerry P. LeBlanc, 63, who is retired after a career working in chemical plant security and earlier in life as a St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy.

Unlike LeBlanc, Barnett has no formal police training but said she views the post as an administrative job.

Barnett and LeBlanc, who listed no party affiliation on his qualifying papers, are seeking to fill the remaining term of convicted former Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr., who resigned in February.

His term ends June 30, 2017.

That race is on the same ballot as a proposition asking Sorrento voters to do away with the chief’s position and a Police Department idled over insurance troubles.

Town officials have said a vote that abolishes the department and chief’s job would mean any newly elected chief would fill Theriot’s term and then the position would go away. Secretary of state officials say they want a legal opinion on that scenario.

Unlike Barnett and LeBlanc, who have said they want to bring the defunct department back, Martin had promised to follow voters’ will on the chief’s position, meaning he would have resigned from office if voters had elected him but also did away with the chief’s position.

Resignation would have brought the position to a quick end in that situation under the state law allowing the Nov. 4 proposition.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.