NEW ORLEANS — After 12 years in office, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has called it quits, not seeking reelection for a third term and not a surprise to Eyewitness News political analyst Clancy DuBos.
“Cannizzaro didn’t do any of the things that an incumbent running for reelection would do,” said DuBos.
His announcement Friday afternoon ends weeks of speculation as polls showed him trailing announced challengers. In the running to take his spot, New Orleans City Councilman-at-large Jason Williams and former Orleans Parish criminal court judges Arthur Hunter, Keva Landrum and Morris Reed.
Dubos said Cannizzaro’s exit changes the dynamic of the race.
“With Cannizzaro in the race, you would have two candidates — two major candidates with serious handicaps,” said DuBos.
For Cannizzaro, that’s a past scandal involving “fake subpoenas” designed to compel reluctant witnesses to appear in court and arresting material witnesses. For Williams, it’s a current indictment on federal tax fraud charges.
“All of the other candidates will now focus their attacks and attention on Williams,” said DuBos.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Simone Levine, executive director of Court Watch NOLA.
Court Watch NOLA is a non-profit organization that doesn’t take positions during elections. Levine says she hopes Cannizzaro’s decision not to run signals a shift in criminal justice.
“We have a court system currently that really does not prioritize people and we think that’s the end of this era,” said Levine.
In deciding to retire and spend time with family, Cannizzaro released this statement:
"I have proudly devoted the past 42 years of my life to the cause of making New Orleans a safer place to live, work, raise families and visit. But after long discussions with my wife and family, it became apparent that my interest in serving another term has waned, outweighed by a desire to spend more time with my family, especially my nine grandchildren born since I first took office. This was not an easy decision, but it is the one with which I'm most at peace.
"It is my hope that the citizens of New Orleans will take care choosing my successor. The job of District Attorney in this city may often be a thankless one, but that does not diminish its importance. I am proud of our achievements over 12 years in this office. From repairing a tattered relationship with our city's police department, to establishing the best diversion program in Louisiana, to taking more than 700 New Orleans killers off the streets and dismantling numerous street gangs, we have been steadfast in seeking justice for crime victims and improving public safety. New Orleans deserves a DA who can serve the cause of justice with such legitimacy, not be an affront to it.
"I will finish my term knowing I gave my all to this city in more than four decades as an assistant district attorney, a deputy public defender, a judge on two different courts, and as District Attorney. It has been my great honor and privilege to be entrusted with serving this community for so long. Finally, I hope and pray that God will continue to bless the people of New Orleans."
With four candidates now in the race, Levine hopes each one will be mindful of what and who the office represents.
“They have to be active in ensuring they have the public in mind,” said Levine.