by Clancy DuBos
Veteran St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel Jr. has submitted his resignation papers effective next May 31, and the leading candidate to succeed him is state Senate President Joel Chaisson of Destrehan. The two men are political allies.
Chaisson, a Democrat who is term limited in the Louisiana Senate, had been considering a run for statewide office this October — possibly lieutenant governor or secretary of state. Morel's resignation changes all that — and it could have profound impact on other statewide races as well.
Chaisson, 50, has long let it be known that he wanted to succeed Morel if the incumbent DA ever stepped down, and today's announcement probably cements Chaisson's immediate political plans.
Morel has been the DA in St. Charles Parish (the 29th Judicial District) for more than three decades. His initial election came after a bruising campaign, but since then he has had no opposition through five election cycles. Morel said in a press release that he is resigning in order to help his daughter Michele run for district judge.
"I intend to actively campaign for my daughter in her judicial race, and I do not want my continuing service as district attorney, should she be elected judge, to become an issue in her campaign," Morel's statement said.
The election to succeed Morel will be on March 24, with a runoff (if needed) on April 21. The new DA will take office June 1.
With Chaisson apparently out of the statewide picture, Democrats' prospects are looking even more grim for the Oct. 22 primary. So far, no major Democrat has surfaced against Gov. Bobby Jindal or Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. In the race for secretary of state, attorney Caroline Fayard is keeping her intentions to herself until next week. Fayard ran a spirited race against Dardenne for lieutenant governor last November, losing to him in the runoff. If she does not run for secretary of state, there may be no well-financed Democrats on the ballot for statewide office in Louisiana this year.