Election Lessons, Part 3: St. George Is Coming, And Soon

Bodi White ran about as good a race for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish as could be run, and it wasn’t enough.

Baton Rouge-based pollster and electoral analyst John Couvillon says White managed to bring 5.5 percent of the black vote in East Baton Rouge over to his side in losing by a painfully-small 4,000 vote margin to Democrat Sharon Weston Broome. But 24 percent of the white voters in the parish went for Broome despite the latter offering nothing of consequence as a rationale for doing so.

Broome’s platform as a mayoral candidate was nothing more than a continuation of her platform as a state senator – moving resources into North Baton Rouge. She offered some empty rhetoric about togetherness as a city, but backed that with complaints about the Baton Rouge Police Department and a promise to make it more sensitive to the needs of the black community – and an economic message which essentially involves taking tax dollars from South Baton Rouge and redistributing them into crony-capitalist ventures in the northern part of the parish.

If this was about building needed infrastructure – roads, sewerage and so forth – that would carry with it the prospect of success in creating economic development north of Florida Boulevard. But there’s a problem. North Baton Rouge already has all the infrastructure it needs. The reason North Baton Rouge is a rapidly-descending economic basket case is the crime and poverty the people who live there accept as part of their daily life.

And Broome can’t fix that by throwing money at the problem while insuring that cops aren’t mean to criminals.

The 24 percent of the parish’s white voters who pulled a lever for Broome also didn’t understand something fundamental – she is not Kip Holden. Baton Rouge’s outgoing mayor was content to serve as a largely ceremonial figure and let the old-money crowd in town, most notably represented by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Baton Rouge Area Foundation, play a large role in running the parish. That isn’t likely to continue.

Sharon Weston Broome made promises to people, and she will keep them. BRAF and BRAC won’t run the city like they did under Holden’s 12-year tenure. Other people will.

And if BRAF and BRAC were uninterested in the concerns of the people in the unincorporated areas in the southern part of the parish, wait until you see Broome’s crowd.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the conventional wisdom coming out of the weekend is the St. George movement is gearing up for a major push to get a city incorporated in the southern part of the parish. In June of 2017, when the two-year prescription period runs out, it’s exceedingly likely a new petition will circulate.

And the second time, it’s easy to predict, will be the charm. After all, there were over 22,000 signatures collected for St. George in 2015. That’s a pretty good database from which to start. Also, per changes in state law the petition will run through the Secretary of State’s office, not the corrupt East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters. And signatures on the petition are no longer removable, unlike last time – so pressuring petition-signers won’t have an effect as they did before.

Look for the boundaries of St. George 2.0 to be trimmed to eliminate an area or two which didn’t favor the new city, look for the organizers to include an effort at creating more of a cultural entity for the proposed new city as well as simply a petition drive (the purple-and-gold flag of St. George above would be an example of a symbol around which supporters could rally), and look for there to be a good deal more political support for St. George – even among some who were its vocal detractors last time around.

A petition won’t circulate until June. But the steam the St. George movement gathers will rise quickly until then.

As for Broome, she faces an uphill fight to keep the status quo in Baton Rouge from descending rapidly. Rough seas are ahead. And the white liberals who made her mayor-president won’t hesitate to show their disappointment at her favoring her own constituency.

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