Right Now It Looks Like A Five-Way BR Mayoral Race

There are three candidates in the race for Mayor-President in Baton Rouge at present, but shortly it’s expected two more will get in.

So far, incumbent Democrat Sharon Weston Broome is running for re-election, though it’s difficult to understand how anybody would think Broome has done a job worthy of voting for her again, and Metro Council members Matt Watson, a Republican, and Tara Wicker, a Democrat, are both in.

But two more are coming, starting with a contender in Watson’s Republican lane.

A fourth candidate is expected to enter the Baton Rouge mayor’s race later this week, when businessman Jordan Piazza holds his official campaign announcement.

The campaign kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Piazza’s home, according to a copy of an evite to the “Piazza for Progress!” event.

Piazza declines to discuss his pending candidacy, as does his campaign consultant, Roy Fletcher, until after Wednesday’s announcement.

But in January, Piazza told Daily Report he was planning to enter the race because he feels a “true calling” to serve the community.

“As I’ve watched the challenges that our great city continues to face, I believe it’s time for the next generation of leaders to get involved implementing real change,” he said at the time.

Soon we can also expect state representative Denise Marcelle to jump in.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle is also “seriously considering” a run, she says.

“Every single day on my Facebook page many of my constituents ask me to run,” Marcelle says.

Marcelle says she is not concerned about splitting the vote and is confident she would be in a good position to win should she decide to enter the race.

“I can raise money and I don’t have to raise as much as some of the others,” she says. “I already have name recognition, I have a street game and I have a base.”

It’s also possible Byron Sharper, another former Metro Council member, will get in. Sharper would make six candidates.

We’ve talked about Piazza before, as he’s flirted with an official run since the beginning of the year. His team of consultants includes Fletcher and also, from what we’ve heard, the Baton Rouge team of Jason Hebert and Scott Hobbs.

Piazza’s problem is that he’s coming in a bit behind Watson in terms of name recognition and also in shoe leather. Watson has been putting in the work of running for a while, and there are big “Matt Watson for Mayor” signs scattered across Baton Rouge already.

There will be a runoff for certain, particularly if Marcelle gets in. She would chop Broome’s numbers in North Baton Rouge down significantly and potentially take Broome out of the runoff depending how the race goes.

Wicker could be an interesting candidate. She made herself something of a crossover figure in Baton Rouge politics when she stood against a power play her fellow Metro Council black Democrats were attempting when Denise Amoroso, the widow of Buddy Amoroso, was nominated to serve out his term. For that, though, Wicker was pilloried in the black community and hit with a recall petition. That didn’t go anywhere, but there is a question of her viability against Broome’s power of incumbency and Marcelle’s ideological cache with the social-justice crowd.

Wicker’s backers are going to try to position her as a stand-in for Kip Holden, the former mayor who for a time had been bandied about as a potential candidate as well. Namely, that she might be a black Democrat but she’s somebody white Republicans can do business with, and since she’s black she can win.

We’re not particularly impressed with that reasoning, as we’ve never seen much from Wicker to indicate she’s anything but an economic illiterate despite her having talked up business and jobs at her campaign announcement last month, and replacing Broome with Wicker really only puts a friendlier face on Baton Rouge’s further decline – though we would certainly be happy to support Wicker in a runoff against either Broome or Marcelle (right after putting the For Sale sign up in the front yard).

Watson or Piazza – and it’s important for Republicans and independents to decide for one or the other relatively early so as to coagulate on a strong candidate – would be likely to make the runoff, whether against Broome, Marcelle or Wicker, but the question is whether the race then mirrors what happened four years ago. Then, state senator Bodi White finished just four thousand votes behind Broome because he lost 25 percent of the white vote to her.

We’re not sure she could get that number again. We definitely don’t think Marcelle, with her history of race-baiting and her abrasive style, could do it. Wicker might.

But there’s a difference between Watson and Piazza this year and White four years ago, which is that while White comes off like more of a Southern country politician Watson is a northern transplant with a “TV” accent, and Piazza, coming from the Phil’s Oyster Bar family, has Old Baton Rouge connections and despite his youth would seem to be better poised for outreach to voters in the white neighborhoods White performed so poorly in – specifically Southdowns and Bocage. Southdowns and Bocage people bristle at Baton Rouge’s old reputation as a “cowtown” and have demonstrated they don’t want to vote for “country” candidates who hail from exurban places like Baker, Central or Zachary. You have to sound “city” if you want to have a chance to win their vote.

As of Wednesday, the voter registration in East Baton Rouge indicated that 50.1 percent of voters in the parish are white, while 44.3 percent are black. But 47.4 percent are Democrats and just 27.6 are Republicans, meaning it’s crucial for Watson or Piazza to pull votes from white Democrats (11.4 percent of the electorate) and independents (13.2 percent) and also to win the “other” ethnic categories which are just under six percent of the electorate.

That means a race to the middle. Don’t expect much in the way of either Watson or Piazza running as the “true conservative” in the race, because there is no way to win doing that. Certainly Watson and Piazza will want to position themselves as the best pro-business option; Wicker is doing that. But neither Watson nor Piazza will run a pro-St. George campaign, for example, and their support for cops – something three straight GOP candidates ran on and lost every time – will likely be understated at best.

That’s what it’s going to take to win if you’re Matt Watson or Jordan Piazza. Both will present as the most nice-guy, big-tent, friendly-moderate candidates they possibly can.

Broome, on the other hand, will have to out-BLM Marcelle if she wants to survive. Watch out for her to lurch to the left in an effort to shore up her base between now and Election Day.



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