Early fireworks as qualifying opens for Northshore D.A. post

Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 3:20 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Accusations of a ticket-fixing controversy, pepper’s the campaigning, as two candidates qualify to run for district attorney of Washington and St. Tammany Parishes. On the first day of qualifying, the incumbent DA says he’s come a long way in reforming his office, but at least one challenger says it’s not enough.

After six years in office incumbent DA Warren Montgomery quells speculation he wasn’t going to pursue six more, due to health concerns.

“We didn’t have a single discussion about whether I should run,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery, has been getting regular cancer treatments and says it’s in remission. He also says he’s ready to continue reforms brought on after his predecessor, Walter Reed was convicted of corruption charges.

“I took office and I made a lot of changes I put in a screening division that accelerates the time between arrest and conviction,” Montgomery said.

Right after Montgomery qualified, Covington attorney Vincent Wynne signed up to run for D.A. too, pledging to do better.

“I don’t think there’s a strong voice in the D.A.‘s office right now,” Wynne said.

Wynne sparked early controversy as he said he’s already landed a sheriff’s endorsement.

“I just got the endorsement from ‘Country Seal’ in Washington parish. He is for me 100%,” said Wynne.

Montgomery responded, “My understanding is Randy Seal decided not to endorse me because I wouldn’t fix a ticket.'

Sheriff Seal doesn’t deny he tried to help a young woman, attending school, who got a ticket for texting while driving.

“I was trying to get it amended, which is done all the time,” said Seal.

The sheriff says Montgomery’s office refused to help because of alleged political affiliations, among Seal employees, who were allegedly supporting one of the challengers in the D.A.‘s race.

“That made me angry and I decided to endorse Vincent Wynne for D.A.,” Seal said.

Former Slidell city judge Jim Lamz has also indicated on social media, he will run for the post but was not among the early qualifiers.

Whoever wins the St Tammany D.A.‘s race will have to deal with the realities brought on by COVID-19 and big changes in the way cases are prosecuted.

One of those cases involves alleged child sex charges pending against former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain. It’s been over four months since any cases were tried in St Tammany, and the D.A. says he’s been negotiating a lot of plea bargains, and wouldn’t close the door on one in the Strain case.

“Let me just say I’m a reasonable man,” Montgomery said.

Though COVID 19 may limit public appearances, the scene is set for a heated campaign.

‘They’ve lost all connections and communications with law enforcement,” Wynne said.

“I will never have a good relationship with politicized law-enforcement and that’s why people put me here,” Montgomery said.

Voters have just over three months to decide.

St Tammany voters will also decide judgeships, and justice of the peace posts, when they go to the polls November 3rd.

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