Candidate Profiles: James Stewart faces challenger in re-election bid

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Incumbent Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart, has drawn only one opponent, fellow Democrat Patricia “Pat” Gilley.

While Gilley says she’s running because she believes in a democracy people need a choice, Stewart says he still finds excitement in coming to work and wants to continue the foundation he has laid over the last five years.

“Five years when I came in this office it had a different direction. What we did was increase the footprint to show that we can serve the citizens of Caddo Parish, not just by prosecuting people in court by planting seeds in different places to grow and enhance so that we can change the culture,” Stewart said.

But Gilley, who in 2012 argued and won a motion to suppress evidence in a criminal firearms case before the U.S. Supreme Court, emphasized her belief that “If the citizens don’t have a choice, uh that’s bad. That’s not a good thing.”

She said when she discovered that no one was going to challenge Stewart, she decided to throw her name in the hat.

But Stewart is proud of his record that he said continues to help many.

“Strictly from a prosecution standpoint we have 166 indictments, 93 for homicides alone,” he said. “And, if you switch gears, we have enhanced our victim assistance programs.”

Stewart said that a number of them have been opened up in juvenile court, and his office has established a specific domestic violence and sexual assault section to deal with victims in those areas.

But Gilley questions Stewart’s record, saying she believes crime is still out of control. As part of her campaign platform, she has put together a 21-point strategy plan to end violent crime.

“I want to basically reduce incarceration, I want to increase the fairness in equity in D.A.’s office, I want to completely re-imagine the role of district attorney, not just be a case processor that moves cases through the system,” Gilley said.

Stewart says he still has things he wants to accomplish. For example, he said he plans to expand the domestic violence unit and expand victim services in the District Attorney’s Office, because his office has seen cases rise since the pandemic began.

One thing Gilley and Stewart agree on is the creation of a mental health program.

Stewart said psychiatrists and mental health professionals have reached out to his office, which is in the process of putting that together a program on a number of mental health issues found in the criminal justice system. He said they’re hoping to get a foothold in helping people avoid situations where there is confrontation with law enforcement and other people.

Gilley echoed Stewart’s sentiments on mental health issues, saying, “If they do crazy things, they run up nude or they do things that don’t make sense,” they don’t need police to arrest them. Instead, she said, “they need to have social workers who are trained and that’s their specialty in life to deal with people who have mental health issues.”

Neither the incumbent nor the challenger want more people entering the justice system.

Looking to the future, Stewart said he looks forward to going into schools and talking to young people about making good choices. Helping them to understand that the more people who good choices and decisions, “the more people we can keep out of the system the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Gilley believes communication is key as well. “Get the victims and get the perpetrator’s together and sit them down and let them each listen to each other and have other people from the community sit down with them.” she said, adding, “We don’t need to criminalize everybody we don’t need all these young people with a criminal history.”

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