Caldwell claims attorney general post

Published 11:44 pm Saturday, November 17, 2007

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Democrat James ‘‘Buddy’’ Caldwell won the Louisiana attorney general’s race on Saturday, easily beating a Republican to succeed incumbent Charles Foti.

With 3,286 of 3,967 precincts reporting, Caldwell led Royal Alexander 66 percent to 34 percent in the final statewide election of 2007.

Caldwell claimed victory at a Baton Rouge hotel, thanking his wife and a throng of supporters. The north Louisiana prosecutor did not mention Foti by name, but indicated he would buttress the attorney general’s office after it has endured criticism over the incumbent’s highly publicized criminal investigations.

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‘‘This office is for all of us,’’ Caldwell told the crowd.

Unofficial returns showed Alexander with leads only in his home Caddo Parish and neighboring Bossier Parish.

Caldwell finished first in the primary, with 35 percent of the vote. Alexander followed with 32 percent, edging the incumbent out of the runoff by about 6,000 votes.

The Democrat Foti had endured harsh criticism for his office’s post-Hurricane Katrina criminal investigations into deaths at a hospital and a nursing home.

Caldwell, 61, is a veteran politician, a district attorney for 29 years for East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes.

He avoided the news media in the race, declining to be interviewed by the state’s largest newspapers. He campaigned on his experience, touting his decades of courtroom experience.

Alexander, 41, took the opposite view, saying the state needed a newcomer for its top law officer.

Alexander is a Shreveport lawyer who previously worked as a top aide in Washington, D.C., for U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman. He worked for 10 years in private practice, specializing in defending companies against lawsuits and was briefly an administrative law judge.

The two attacked each other bitterly with negative advertisements.

Caldwell was accused of misusing his office’s money and recklessly prosecuting innocent people. Alexander said he found a pattern of abuses in the DA’s office.

Caldwell disputed the facts behind Alexander’s attacks, and criticized his opponent for lack of experience in the law.

Attacks on Alexander focused partly on a sexual harassment lawsuit he faces from a former fellow staffer on Capitol Hill where he used to work. Alexander denied the accusations and filed a lawsuit trying to block Caldwell’s ads on the topic, but later withdrew the suit.