Scheduled for November 3, the election for Division B, 23rd Judicial District Court pits Cody Martin against Aaron Chaisson. A campaign milestone we look forward to each cycle, the candidates filed their 30-day Campaign Finance reports last week evidencing where their respective support is generated for all to see. The numbers are particularly interesting considering both judicial hopefuls posture as the local candidate in a District that includes Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.
Who’s really the hometown boy looking to make good?
Chaisson has publicly championed his status as “the only candidate” who lives in Ascension Parish, the Chalmette native having settled in Prairieville some years ago. A native of St. James Parish, Martin established his law office in Gonzales (Ascension) where he lived before returning to Grand Point (St. James) to raise his family.
In addition to his private practice, Cody Martin represents Ascension Parish Government, St. James Parish Government, the Gonzales Airport, and the Assumption Parish Waterworks District all while assisting in other prosecutorial tasks for District Attorney Ricky Babin’s office (Cody was also a Public Defender in our District prior to that). He also represents private clients…you know, the people of Ascension, Assumption and St. James. Aaron Chaisson represents State Farm Insurance Company, an Illinois-based corporation, from his Baton Rouge office…and no other client.
Would you want an individual who never practiced Criminal Law presiding over a murder trial? What about a judge who never practiced Family Law deciding a child custody case? We digress; the respective experience of the candidates will be compared in a future piece.
Cody Martin served as President of the local 23rd JDC Bar Association, Aaron Chaisson never even bothered to join. Martin’s Campaign Chairman, Chris McNeil succeeded him to the bar presidency; neither of Chaisson’s two chairmen, Ascension Parish Councilman Aaron Lawler and Robbie Bourgeois, are members.
Speaking of campaign finance, Chaisson reported contributions (other than personal funds) of $47,300 with $36,280 “on-hand” as of October, just nipping Martin’s total; $46,250 with $36,797 on-hand. Chaisson may have the fundraising advantage since he can more likely tap into additional cash from certain of his contributors. Two Political Action Committees are backing him; Louisiana State Farm Agents PAC ($5,000) and Louisiana Manufacturers PAC ($1,000), along with numerous Baton Rouge law firms.
PAC’s can spend unlimited funds to support any candidate they wish, so long as the fiction of no coordination with the campaign is maintained. Cody Martin has not received a contribution from any PAC. Along with State Farm’s PAC Chaisson has reaped another $3,250 with connections to a local insurance agency doing business with Ascension Parish Government.
More than $29,000 of Chaisson’s total comes from outside the 23rd JDC’s jurisdictional limits, $25,000 of that from Baton Rouge.
Martin’s campaign took in just under $24,000 from inside the 23rd JDC, over half his total and less than $4,000 from local law firms/lawyers that we could verify. Martin’s campaign could only muster around $10,000 from Baton Rouge, about 40% of Chaisson’s total.
A telltale sign of any candidate’s allegiance, where does the campaign spend its money? While certain expenditures are mandated by law, and going outside the locality cannot be avoided for others, there is an awful lot of discretionary spending by every campaign.
Cody Martin’s campaign chose to spend $10,963 (34.4% of its $31,893 total) within the three-parishes comprising the 23rd JDC. That is compared to $3,529 (9.6% of its $36,769 total) by the Chaisson campaign which paid over $26,000 to three Denham Springs companies, one of which was his consultant.
So, who is the real local candidate to represent the people of 23rd JDC as the next Judge-Division B?