Candidate to withdraw from East Baton Rouge Parish School Board race

Rather than continue to fight a legal challenge to his residency, Eugene Collins Weatherspoon said late Thursday that he plans to withdraw his candidacy for the newly drawn District 3 on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

That would leave incumbent Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, a Democrat, re-elected without opposition. She would start her second term Jan. 1, joining David Tatman, a District 9 Republican also re-elected without opposition. Seven remaining seats would still be contested.

Weatherspoon, a Democrat, made his decision after testifying Thursday afternoon in a court proceeding before state District Judge Janice Clark. Weatherspoon, who many people know as Eugene Collins, said he will withdraw Friday.

“Right now, it doesn’t seem like the right time,” he said. “I thought it might be four years from now.”

Nelson-Smith said she was in the courtroom Thursday as well and heard Weatherspoon say he will be withdrawing because of his difficulty proving he is eligible to run.

When he qualified, Weatherspoon, STD/HIV regional coordinator for the Baton Rouge Public Health System, listed his address as 17752 Macon Drive, which is just south of Jefferson Highway near the Ascension Parish line. That is across the parish from District 3, which stretches from downtown Baton Rouge north to the edge of Baker.

Weatherspoon told The Advocate in an Aug. 24 interview that he received a legal opinion saying it was OK for him to run and that he would be changing his residence to District 3 in the coming weeks.

State law requires candidates for School Board to be “domiciled” in the district they are seeking for at least a year prior to qualifying.

The law, however, makes an exception for candidates who run after a reapportionment, like the one the board approved July 24. After a reapportionment, candidates who live outside the newly created districts can still qualify to run as long as they’ve lived for a year in “any district created in whole or in part from a district existing prior to reapportionment.” Macon Drive is not in District 3 or any of the previous district it was constructed from.

The residency challenge was lodged Friday by Zanetta Augustine.