Tony Bennett and Lisa Nelson bring family values and strong law-and-order backgrounds to their campaigns for judge in the 30th Judicial District.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, Vernon Parish voters will decide which candidate succeeds Vernon R. Clark, who is retiring in December. There are three years remaining of his term.
Nelson and Bennett have made countless campaign appearances since July, including the traditional visits to public meetings of various governing entities in the parish. At those cameos, the candidates stressed their values, their legal experience and their civic participations.
As compared to candidates for just about any other office, men and women running for the bench are quite restricted in what they can discuss, with general philosophy being the main forum available.
Both candidates understand the workload that comes with the office.
There are three divisions in the 30th District. Clark holds the post in Division A. Division B is held by by C. Anthony Eaves and Scott Westerchil is judge in Division C.
The court has power and authority over all cases of a civil nature in the parish and criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors, felonies or violations of parish ordinances as well as all juvenile proceedings.
According to the Annual Report of the Judicial Council of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, in 2016 there were 1,206 civil cases filed in the district, 1765 criminal cases, 10,155 traffic cases and 214 juvenile matters. No civil cases went to jury trial; two criminal cases did.
Bennett, a Pitkin High graduate, earned a degree at McNeese, went to work in private industry, was injured in a traffic accident, went back to college and got teacher-certified, then taught in junior high before entering law school. He’s practiced since 1993. He has a private civil and criminal practice and is an assistant district attorney. He is married to the former Stephanie Downs, a Hicks native. They live in Rosepine.
Nelson, a Natchitoches native, earned bachelor’s and law degrees at LSU. and joined a law firm here in 1993. Since 1995, she and her husband, Clay, have been partners in their own firm. They live in Leesville. Her primary area of practice has been family and criminal law. Nelson has been a public defender in the 30th District for 24 years and has served as interim prosecutor in Leesville City Court.
Bennett is No. 19 on the ballot and is listed as an Independent.
Nelson is No. 20 on the ballot and is listed as a Republican.
Polls for the primary open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.