The District 16 District Attorney represents Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee and Oktibbeha Counties, but the race is a Lowndes County affair.
Current District Attorney Forrest Allgood, a lifelong Lowndes citizen, is facing two Columbus attorneys. The victor of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary between Allgood and Bill Bambach will face Republican Steve Wallace in the general election in November.
Allgood, 57, was elected district attorney in 1989 after serving 11 years as an assistant prosecutor for the District 16 office.
With the exception of his college years, the University of Mississippi School of Law graduate has spent his entire life living in Lowndes County. After 20-plus years steering the District 16 office, he says he”s not only the most qualified prosecutor, but by default the most qualified administrator.
“I”m seriously concerned the direction of the DA”s office will change if I”m not in office. Times are tough and I don”t see anymore funding coming to the DA any time soon. It”s important that everyone in this office shoulders the load. There”s no room for an ivory tower administrator,” said Allgood. “When you”re swapping someone who knows what he”s doing for someone who may not, you better make sure the individual you”re swapping for has something to bring to the table the one you”re getting rid of might not.”
Allgood, winner of the 2004 Amy Clayton Justice Award from Mississippians for Crime Victims” Rights, recalled a past assistant who aptly observed “There are a lot more ways to mess up in this job than I ever imagined.”
“There”s a lot of truth to that. People think a lawyer is a lawyer,” said Allgood. “We are specialists. We”re professional prosecutors and we have experience nobody else can match.”
Allgood is a Democrat.
After numerous attempts by The Dispatch, Bambach, a Columbus attorney, was unavailable to participate in this story. He is a Democrat.
Wallace, 60, has served as a public defender in the 16th District since 2005. Prior to going to work for the state, he spent 10 years in corporate law as associate general council for Yates Construction Co. of Philadelphia.
The Lee High graduate earned bachelor”s degrees from Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women in engineering and accounting, respectively, before graduating from University of Mississippi School of Law in 1994.
Wallace believes the district attorney”s caseload can be streamlined by filtering minor drug charges and false pretense cases through the Justice Court system. He”d also like to see the district attorney handle fewer small embezzlement cases.
“Mr. Allgood has been in office 20 years and in that time we”ve seen the crime rate go up. We”ve seen Justice Court judges stopped from doing preliminary hearings and more things taken to the grand jury than ever,” said Wallace.
He also wants to seek new funds for the district attorney”s office through reaching out to the legislature and applying for grants, not necessarily to fund salaries, but to upgrade computers and equipment in the office. Wallace said the district attorney”s office has traditionally ignored these routes and characterized its administration as a “seat of the pants affair.”
Wallace is a Republican.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.