A Republican candidate for Louisiana Attorney General and two St. Tammany Parish Republicans are blasting the state GOP for its endorsement of John Raymond, who faces criminal juvenile cruelty charges, in his bid to win the open 104th District seat in the House of Representatives.
Raymond faces Republican Jay Gallé, a businessman and former Marine, in the Oct. 14 race. The 104th District covers Mandeville, Lacombe and Abita Springs. The seat is open because Paul Hollis is term-limited.
John Stefanski, a Republican running for Attorney General, said the party should rescind its endorsement of Raymond, who has been charged with four felony counts of cruelty to children after complaints about how he disciplined children at a Christian school he founded in Slidell. Raymond has said he is innocent. The case is still pending in state court in St. Tammany Parish.
"Under no circumstance should anyone charged with criminal cruelty to children be in a position of leadership or authority, much less be supported and endorsed by a political party," said Stefanski, who currently represents a Crowley-based district in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
"If the charges were dismissed, I would still have grave concerns," Stefanski added. "I've been a Republican my entire adult life and this is not who we are or what we stand for. We defend the defenseless. We protect children. The Louisiana Republican Party has made a mistake and should rescind the endorsement."
Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich on Thursday confirmed the endorsement, but declined to comment further. Raymond sits on the St. Tammany Parish Republican Executive Committee and the State Central Committee's credentials committee.
Stefanski is one of five candidates for state Attorney General, three of whom are Republicans. The state party endorsed Liz Murrill in that race.
Rep. Mark Wright, a Republican from Covington, joined Stefanski in criticizing the endorsement.
"It's crazy," he said, of the state Republican Executive Committee, which gives the state party's imprimatur to candidates. "It just shows just how out of touch they are."
Wright, who was re-elected without opposition this year to his Covington-area seat, also directed some criticism at Raymond for getting in the race.
"I'm shocked he's running," Wright said, noting that Raymond did not earn the endorsement of the St. Tammany Parish Republican Executive Committee. "It shows the shamelessness."
Mandeville Mayor Clay Madden, a Republican, questioned making any endorsement.
"When you have two Republicans running against each other, what benefit does an endorsement have?" Madden asked. "If it's a Republican versus a Democrat, it's a no-brainer."
Like Wright, Madden noted that the parish executive committee declined to endorse in the race.
"The state party should have stayed out of that one," he added.
Raymond has run unsuccessfully twice before, in 2018 and 2019, both times against Mary Dubuisson for a Slidell-area seat.
Raymond, who pastors a Slidell church, was charged last year with four felony counts of cruelty to children related to complaints over how he disciplined students at Lakeside Christian Academy, a school he founded. He is accused of using packing tape to cover the mouths of three 13-year old boys and covering the nose and mouth of a 4-year-old until the child went limp. He's also accused of dragging the 4-year-old by the ankles and holding him upside down while he whipped his buttocks.
Raymond, who has said he will be exonerated in a court did not return a call or text for comment for this story.