DSA New Orleans 2020

Voter Guide

District Attorney

Plaquemines District Attorney 25th Judicial District Court

Six year terms, no term limits. The difference in rhetoric between the Plaquemines and Orleans DA races is huge. Plaquemines has four Republicans running for the position, and they are much more concerned with toll bridges than police reform. These candidates mostly come from the prosecutorial side of the law, and are fighting for an Parish office that brags about the number of its convictions and the length of its jail sentences. There is some marginal talk of deferment programs, drug enforcement, and mental health treatment, but for the most part the candidates in this race are campaigning on their local roots, using as little taxpayer money as possible, and who will be toughest on crime. The criminals they will be prosecuting are usually spoken of as outsiders who come into Plaquemines parish to take advantage of their weakness.

Gilbert "Gibby" Andry was an assistant DA for a decade, and his father was also an assistant DA for thirty years. Andry is attacking incumbent Charles Ballay on having been in office two long and waffling on his previous support for a two-term limit for Plaquemines DAs (Ballay is currently running for a third term). He also has repeatedly accused Ballay of wasting taxpayer money. In a campaign video. Andry stands angrily in front of a new $5 million office building for the DA's office that contains “big screen TVs, a commercial kitchen, and a sun deck...a sun deck!” Andry determinedly points a thumb back at the building and says “I'm going to make sure that every tax dollar that we take in is spent on something that matters, and not getting a tan or having some barbeque chicken.” Andry is very proud of his work fighting to take away tolls on the Crescent City Connection bridge, a campaign he spent thousands of dollars on. Finally, to back his claim of being a champion for our values, Andry notes he’s been married and lived in Belle Chasse for a long time, and that he’s an avid sportsman, black belt, and FAA seaplane pilot.

Charles Ballay has been the District Attorney for the last twelve years and an assistant DA for 22 years before that. He also worked as a public defender for four years as a new lawyer, and he proudly lists himself as a small business owner for the last 40 years. Ballay established a drug court in Plaquemines Parish ten years ago, which has helped more people get treatment and reduced the amount of prison time the office hands out, though it still extorts fees and fines from poor people. Ballay is also flexing his tough-on-crime muscles, claiming he's cut crime by 50% since becoming DA, and that he has successfully prosecuted more criminal jury trials than any other attorney in Plaquemines parish. “When criminals come to Plaquemines Parish, we get them off our streets.” he declares in a campaign video. His office brags online about getting life sentences without the possibility of parole, and recently his Facebook account celebrated his victory fighting against parole for a rapist serving life in prison. The DA's office posts pictures and descriptions of the convicted on their website. Recently punished people on the site include a man convicted of burglarizing an oil platform and stealing a boat from a nearby hunting club, sentenced to 16 years, and a man convicted of cocaine and marijuana possession sentenced to two years probation, and $1,800 in fees. To avoid prison time, the man must also complete a substance abuse program and get a GED.

Despite this temperament, Ballay's campaign materials broadcast the usual notes of homespun charm and local pride: ads with diverse, happy fishermen and waitresses, muddy water churning, old men sitting in chairs, and healthy-looking families, like Ballay with his ten grandchildren and a photoshopped dog. “The soul of Plaquemines parish isn't measured in miles, but in feet and in yards: schoolyards, churchyards, backyards.” Says Ballay in a campaign video. “...[E]very foot of Plaquemines parish is a victory against a shifting river, the rising tides, and a changing world. We have to fight to preserve the soul of plaquemines parish-and protect it. That's what Charles Ballay believes in. He will fight for every yard, every foot, and every inch of our home. He will protect it.”

Personal injury and criminal defense lawyer Leo Palazzo, whose face can be seen grinning down on traffic from a big billboard on the West Bank side of the Crescent City Connection, is another contender in the Plaquemines DA race. Despite his experience defending citizens, Palazzo is promising aggressive, highly punitive tactics from his office as a future DA. “I'm not going to allow repeat offenders to take money out of your pocket, because your money is being wasted with the current DA's office.” he says in a campaign video, promising to use repeat offender laws or 'multiple bills' to mete out extra long prison terms. “As a little boy, I always knew to be very respectful in Plaquemines parish. Nowadays, criminals come into Plaquemines parish to commit crimes because they know all they're only gonna get is a slap on the wrist.” He sneers.

Palazzo addresses deferment and rehab (referring to it always as “true rehab”) a little in his campaign, but doesn't have a lot of specifics there. His site says if defendants are willing to make amends, “...[W]e will work with you to get your life back on track, we can get you there with: true rehab, GED, random drug testing, job, stay out of trouble, community service”. Palazzo also has a campaign ad declaring he is running for the men and women in blue, and that he does not stand for defunding the police. He also (most importantly!) is against bridge tolls, and vows as DA to get rid of tolls on bridges and rebuild Highway 23.

Terry Sercovich is a former commercial fisherman, Coast Guard licensed boat captain, oil field worker, Coast Guard Petty Officer (veteran of two tours of duty in the Middle East), sheriff’s deputy and lawyer. He says he would be the first Plaquemines DA with law enforcement experience, to his knowledge. He left the sheriff’s office to run for DA and has questioned his opponent's dedication to the job because of their other businesses. He says he is “Guaranteed to be your most independent candidate with no political affiliation to any group and no promises made to anyone. Service... Nothing More, Nothing Less.” He takes this independent stance very seriously, and has an indignant post on his Facebook page addressing a rumor that he cut a deal with Charles Ballay to run as a spoiler for the other candidates:

“I am just a blue-collar attorney who gets up every day to go to work. I do not have a lucrative private practice or lifestyle which allows me to spend outrageous amounts of money on an election which may generate approximately 9,000 votes. Citizens of Plaquemines Parish, I am in this race for one reason and that is to win. I consider this a cowardly act by whoever generated it, and I want to let them know this race has just begun and their action has filled me with a terrible resolve.”

Sercovich has attacked Ballay on breaking his two-term promise and being wasteful with public money, and has released some of Ballay's own campaign material covered in Sercovich's angry drawings and writing. Despite all this, he has released one of the more sensible statements in this race, writing “We are fortunate to live in a parish where our crime rate is low compared to our neighboring parishes. The programs within the District Attorney’s Office will be enhanced along with the District Attorney’s Office taking a more proactive approach to the crime problem in Plaquemines, especially in the areas of drug abuse and mental health.”