It’s almost unheard of for an incumbent district attorney to be defeated in a re-election bid, especially after serving only one term. But that may just be the case for embattled Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott whose 6 year term ends this year. Several names of possible contenders are being bandied about by courthouse politicos; its almost certain that Scott will have an opponent for the November 4 primary.
Scott, a Caddo District Judge for 32 years, defeated Shreveport attorney Craig Smith in a hotly contested election in 2008. Paul Carmouche, who had served as D.A. for 30 years, ran for U.S. House of Representatives rather than another term. The late campaign endorsement by Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator of Scott, including an extensive robocall campaign, pushed Scott to a victory over Smith.
In a reversal that can only happen in politics, Prator may endorse another candidate to run against Scott. Prator’s dissatisfaction started with Scott in the disclosure by then Caddo D.A. investigator Don Ashley of the acquisition of the 8 fully automatic machine guns by the D.A.’s office. This revelation had major ripples, including the acknowledgment by Scott of signing the request for the guns (Scott said he was misinformed), the termination of top assistants D.A.’s Hugo Holland and Lea Hall by Scott, the return of the guns by the D.A.’s office, and the termination of Ashley by Scott.
Ashley filed a whistle blower suit against Scott, seeking substantial damages and attorney fees on March 23, 2012, and the trial is set to start on September 23, 2014. This trial will undoubtedly draw substantial media attention with full disclosure of the machine gun details, — all of this just one month after Scott starts his (official) re-election effort. This will give Scott’s opponent a media campaign advantage by the negative publicity on Scott that will be featured without regard to this ultimate resolution of the case.
In recent weeks Prator has blasted Scott and his office for the failure to prosecute public corruption cases, and in particular an August 2009 arrest of James Lester, a local contractor. Lester is accused of failing to properly install an air conditioner for a 82 year old blind senior citizen; both the alleged victim and Lester are African-Americans. A TV news report that included a clip of the victim has been widely discussed and circulated in the black community. Prator’s endorsement, along with this TV report, will certainly be a major factor in garnering votes from senior citizens, both black and white.
Names most prominently mentioned for the D.A. race were Craig Smith and Jason Waltman; both have mounted a billboard face/name recognition for over a year. Waltman has a good working knowledge of the D.A.’s office; he previously served 5 years as an assistant D.A. under Carmouche prosecuting cases ranging from misdemeanor drug cases to a death penalty case. Waltman says that he listened to Sheriff Prator express his deep concerns regarding the direction of the district Attorney’s office since Carmouches’ retirement and that he shares Prator’s concerns.
Craig Smith and Prator have had numerous meetings; Prator has said that he had been to “eat breakfast with Craig about 10 times”. Neither Prator or Smith have revealed the nature of their discussions, but its pretty sure they were not trading baseball cards or exchanging recipes. Seemingly the split between Prator and Scott is irreconcilable, and Prator’s endorsement of Scott’s opponent is very likely. Craig Smith has, however, decided not to run for this office.
And while Prator and Waltman are playing their cards close to their vest, there’s no doubt Scott will run for re-election. In fact, Scott has been campaigning for a second term virtually from the get-go, which may explain management problems in his office. (That plus he is currently the President of the State District Attorney’s Association – – which may be an honor but does little to help his office function effectively.) A contested D.A. race will have a substantial effect on the other races on the November 4 ballot, and voter turn outs could reach a modern all time high. Suffice it to say, it will be high drama in the Caddo Parish courthouse at the 5 p.m. filing deadline on Friday, August 22, 2014.