OPSB President Ira Thomas announces bid for sheriff - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

OPSB President Ira Thomas announces bid for sheriff

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NEW ORLEANS - The president of the Orleans Parish School Board said Thursday that he wants to switch jobs.

Ira Thomas became the second candidate to announce for the Orleans Parish sheriff's race, but there could be at least two more.

It has always been one of the most powerful political posts in the state, and since the Orleans civil and criminal sheriff's offices were combined, it's even bigger.

The sheriff presides over the old and new jail, one of the biggest construction projects in the city, and has control of hundreds of jobs.

Incumbent Sheriff Marlin Gusman has already announced he's running for re-election in February. Now, Thomas says he will challenge.

"As your sheriff, I will score knockouts by ending patronage, by ending waste and fraud," said Thomas before nearly 50 supporters gathered in Gentilly.

Thomas has been here before, having run for the office nine years ago and coming in third.

"We got a far better organization now," Thomas said. "I was much younger and just getting into politics."

The wild card this time around, though, is former sheriff and Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti, 75, who is expected to announce next week.

"Keep in mind he's been out of office and will have to re-introduce himself, so this will take time and money," said Xavier political analyst Dr. Silas Lee.

Another possible candidate in the race is state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, who says it's something he's now considering, and he will make a decision next week.

"This drama will continue until next Friday at 5 p.m.," said Lee, who added that this will be a tight election cycle. "We are entering into the Christmas holidays, which means that voters won't be paying much attention until after Jan. 5."

This race will be an expensive one.

Both Gusman and Foti are well-financed, and Thomas says he's building his war chest.

"It's not going to cost me as much as it will cost the incumbent to hold his seat, but we're prepared and raising money," said Thomas.

Thomas has been elected twice to the Orleans School Board, and he appears to be well-organized.

Things will get tougher in advance of the February primary with four possible candidates in the race.

Thomas said if elected, he will work hard to comply with the consent decree designed to straighten out the jail, which has been described as the worst in America.

The three-day qualifying period for the sheriff's race and other city offices begins Wednesday. The primary election is Feb. 1.

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