Former Councilman Byron Sharper drops out of EBR Mayor's race, 5 others remain
BATON ROUGE - One week before qualifying officially begins, former Councilman Byron Sharper has thrown his support behind the incumbent mayor, Sharon Weston Broome.
The crowded field of candidates includes EBR Councilwoman Tara Wicker, EBR Councilman Matt Watson, State Representative C. Denise Marcelle and Businessman Jordan Piazza.
Pollsters said it's likely the crowded field of candidates could force Broome into a runoff. But at this point, that is not certain.
"You still have to see how the race develops and who has enough money to compete with her," pollster Bernie Pinsonat said. "How much money can they gain at the grassroots level to take votes away from her... She's the incumbent mayor and taking votes away from her won't be easy."
Pinsonat said money will be the biggest challenge the candidates face in challenging Broome. He said things are especially tight right now due to the coronavirus.
"Because of the coronavirus and the effects it has had on small businesses, these people aren't full of cash to be throwing it around an election," Pinsonat said. "That's the background that makes it more advantageous towards an incumbent mayor."
The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked on their finances. As of Wednesday, July 15, 2020, the following candidates reported the following amounts in their most recently filed campaign finance reports.
(2020) Sharon Weston Broome, $195,350.14
(2020) Tara Wicker, $38,127.26
(2020) C. Denise Marcelle, $22,755.03
(2020) Jordan Piazza, $600
(2018) Matt Watson, $0.00
As two elected African-American women try to unseat Broome, pollsters said they will likely split up the vote and causie a runoff.
"The race is going to boil down at the grassroots level in the African-American community," Pinsonat said. "How well she can hold the voters that she did last time."
WBRZ checked with all of the candidates for statements on this story. We did not hear back from C. Denise Marcelle and Jordan Piazza.
Broome declined to do an interview.
Matt Watson released the following statement:
"Look at the number of people in her own party who are running against her for evidence of that.
Look at the homicide numbers creeping their way up to set yet another record on top of the record set under this same administration just a short time ago. We had a decade's low homicide rate just the year before the current administration took office.
Look at the terrible drainage problems we have across the parish because this administration won't allocate the resources to do regular maintenance.
Look at the thousands upon thousands of properties of vacant and blighted properties that need to be demolished in some of our economically hardest-hit areas of Baton Rouge. This is a quality of place issue, a safety hazard, a hurdle to economic development, I can provide you study upon study that shows a positive correlation between blighted and abandoned buildings and an increase in violent crime. Under this administration, no serious plan has been put in place to remedy that situation. I know of one instance under this administration where a person who helped this mayor get elected was put in charge of the crew to demolish homes actually tore down the wrong house.
Everyone who pays property tax and sales tax in this parish deserves the services that they're paying for and yet this administration falls short time and time again.
The reason I'm running is to fix this situation that our community is a victim of. I'm running to create an efficient government that can prioritize those things that affect our community most and get those things done with the tax money already being charged to the hard-working men and women who still make our community their home."
Councilwoman Tara Wicker released the following statement late Wednesday evening.
"Like many of us, I see the direction our community is headed, and it is concerning to say the least. Baton Rouge is lacking in clear vision and real leadership. It demands a change and someone who has the decades of real, relevant experience that can point us toward a much more positive, promising future that our citizens desperately need.
I have served on the Metro Council for the past 12 years, leading numerous policy and programmatic initiatives that have made a real impact in our community. I also served as the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer in Mayor-President Bobby Simpson’s administration, which means I’ve had to both make and implement decisions that impact hundreds of thousands of people. I also hold a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, meaning I have the educational background you want and should demand in your elected leaders.
All of these experiences have helped me develop the necessary skill sets and knowledge to know what is possible and what citizens should expect our of their local government and elected leaders – namely, efficient and effective services without excuses. I will unite this parish, which is more divided than ever before. We need real, experienced leaders who can collaborate and work toward compromise, building understanding, and implementing real solutions that move us forward together. My track record of doing so speaks for itself.
My entire life has been about building the experience and expertise to get to this point. I am a Baton Rouge girl, born, raised, educated, and trained right here. This is my home; I am prepared and know that I will make East Baton Rouge Parish better.
Do you I feel that the current leadership is not cutting it? If so, why?
I believe that East Baton Rouge Parish is suffering from an acute void in current leadership in vision, action, and clear direction. Baton Rouge has veered greatly off course, and we are headed for a train wreck if we don’t stop and change the direction in which we are headed. Unfortunately, we are all keenly aware of the existing problems. We are more divided than we’ve ever been. People no longer feel safe to live and work in this parish because of the accelerated crime issues. East Baton Rouge Parish has suffered from a climate where companies large and small cannot effectively do business here. Many are suffering from an acute sense of PTSD every time it rains, not knowing if continued flooding will occur even when it seems to be a normal flow of rain. These issues have quickly become the norm – they are unacceptable to me and are unacceptable to the citizens of our parish. We must create an environment that allows for real change supported by strong, clear leadership working toward specific goals and a vision for the future. Simply put, we want our Baton Rouge back, and I will help get us there."