Councilwoman Tara Wicker running for Baton Rouge mayor in fall election
BATON ROUGE - The list of candidates for the next mayor-president of East Baton Rouge is now a little longer.
Democratic Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker officially kicked off her mayoral campaign on Friday at the shuttered Cortana Mall, describing it as a crossroads in the parish.
"I stand here today not to criticize development across our parish, in fact, you'll find no greater champion of small business and large employees alike more than me, goodness knows we need more and better jobs for our people," said Wicker.
The 12-year Metro councilwoman spoke about finding solutions to the issues in East Baton Rouge Parish, including the area in and around Cortana.
"Working together we can breathe new life into our parish center," she said.
Surrounded by her family, Wicker said Friday that her campaign is focused on six major areas, areas which she says are in relationship to the personalities of her six children.
"We're bringing Baton Rouge back to business," she said. "Making sure that our people are able to actively and effectively take care of their families and not have to leave and turn the lights off on Baton Rouge."
Wicker's goals as mayor include improving trash pick-up, adequate street lighting, blight reduction, road repair, finding a traffic solution, better drainage, and education. She says it all starts with opening up conversations with everyone and unifying the parish.
"How do we come together and build bridges, how do we communicate and effectively talk about transparency in government, talk about community building relationships," she said.
Wicker joins fellow Councilman Matt Watson in the race for the top city-parish position. They are two of four candidates that will face off against the incumbent, current Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
In February, Wicker wasn't ready to announce her candidacy at a Baton Rouge Press Club meeting, but she said combating blight and aiding community policing could be a cornerstone of her platform.
“Right now our blight department, we don't have enough blight officers. 311 requests, we're two years in the hole, so while I think there are some things that are moving, there's a ton of work that needs to be done,” Wicker said in February.
Watson also wants to tackle those problems should voters pick him in November.
"Residences that need to be torn down because they're half burned down already. And the people that live next door do complain. If you go down to the I.S. department you'll see all the 311 complaints. We never put enough money in the budget to go take care of this,” Watson said.
Watson announced his campaign in late May and says that he welcomes the competition.
"Certainly having another person who can talk from experience about all the ideas that we've tried and tried again over the years that haven't done anything to change what ails our community, will remind us all the things we need to change,” Watson said.
Mayor Broome's campaign declined to make a formal statement on Wicker's announcement Thursday.
Broome, along with local business owner Jordan Piazza, a republican, and former democratic councilman Byron Sharper announced their intent to run earlier this year.
Veteran pollster Bernie Pinsonat told WBRZ that with Wicker in the mix, it increases the likelihood for a runoff in December.
Whoever is elected will have to manage several challenges, including St. George's incorporation efforts, demands for police reform and improved community relations, and a municipal budget currently being held together by rainy day funds.
There have also been rumors that state representative C. Denise Marcelle will also make a run for the position.
The final round for potential candidates to determine qualification runs between July 22 and July 24 next month. Louisiana’s election date is November 3.