Metro Council may also feature competitive races
Qualifying for the Nov. 6 elections begins Wednesday, but many of the races for Metro Council and mayor-president are already in full swing.
While it’s impossible to know yet which candidates will end up on the ballot, several have declared their intentions and have been aggressively campaigning for months, evidenced by the hundreds of campaign signs posted in yards and business windows across the parish.
Meanwhile, the pool of candidates for mayor-president has gotten smaller in recent weeks after businessmen John Conroy and Jim Mayer, who both had declared their intentions to run, decided to drop out.
Conroy said he could not keep up with the fund-raising demands of the highly competitive race.
Their absence leaves incumbent Mayor-President Kip Holden and his most well-financed competitor, Councilman Mike Walker, as the frontrunners.
Since the beginning of the year, Holden has raised about $350,000 and Walker has raised about $200,000.
Walker, who is term-limited as a councilman, announced his challenge to Holden in February on a platform mostly focused on reducing crime. In interviews and radio spots, Walker is aggressively attacking Holden’s record on crime. Walker also has organized a team of volunteers who regularly canvass neighborhoods and call voters asking for support.
Holden has said for more than a year that he will seek his third and final term and made it official in June with a speech saying he would continue building on the movie industry, technology jobs and road and sewer projects.
Gordon Mese, owner of Garden District Nursery on Government Street, has also been actively campaigning for mayor, waving a no-frills “Mese for Mayor” sign outside his business during rush hour most days of the week since early this year.
Mese, who said he is not taking campaign donations, is running on a single-item platform: to reform the city-parish’s Unified Development Code, an effort he says will have a trickle-down impact, improving city-parish woes like blight and crime.
Sarah Holliday-James, the Capital City Republican Women president who last year lost a race for state representative, has a Facebook page titled “Sarah Holliday-James for EBRP Mayor-President 2012.” The page’s most recent activity was in March.
Holliday-James said last week that she would “qualify for something,” but wouldn’t say which office.
Running for Metro Council
The 12-seat Metro Council will also feature some competitive races.
One race to watch is District 12, which so far pits incumbent Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois against political newcomer and local attorney John Delgado.
Delgado said he has raised about $30,000 and handed out more than 300 campaign signs.
He said he disagrees with Bourgeois’s anti-downtown positions. He also said Bourgeois’s failed attempt to regulate food trucks was a conflict of interest because the popular trucks compete for business with George’s, the restaurant run by Bourgeois.
Bourgeois said he will not aggressively raise campaign funds because he “has a hard problem asking people for money.”
Bourgeois was a vocal opponent of both the CATS bus tax approved by voters in April and of a plan to demolish and rebuild the downtown library branch. He regularly opposes downtown spending. He has a consistent record of opposing the Rouzan development, a mixed-use housing and office project that is unpopular with many in the Southdowns community in his district.
Rose Carey, a retired worker for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections credit union and a member of the Valley Park neighborhood association, said she also will try to unseat Bourgeios in District 12.
In District 10, Councilwoman Tara Wicker is likely to be challenged by Larry Selders, whom she defeated in 2008 by six votes.
Selders said he feels more confident this time and thinks the recent Metro Council redistricting will benefit him because District 10 now includes Southern University.
Selders said he’s met with civic associations in the area and they are “looking for change, for new leadership, young leadership.”
Selders, a BREC commissioner and an executive member of the East Baton Rouge Democratic Party, said he wants to see more afterschool and summer programs for children and wants to promote economic development in the district.
Wicker said she is running for re-election to finish what she’s started in the district.
“My record speaks for itself,” she said. “My office has been making sure we’re taking care of constituent needs.”
In District 7, incumbent C. Denise Marcelle will face a challenge from Hazel Bradley, a Baton Rouge educator and political newcomer who said she wants to focus on providing job training opportunities and children’s programs in the district.
Marcelle fought ardently this year to get funding for summer school programs in her district.
Despite previous comments she’s made suggesting a possible run for mayor-president, Marcelle said Wednesday that she will run for re-election to her council seat.
Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, District 6, is expected to be challenged by at least two candidates: Edwin “PaPo” DelValle, a retired U.S. Army sergeant and retired corrections officer, and Carolyn George, known to her radio fans as Carolyn Gee, the on-air gospel announcer for station WTQT-FM.
George said she has a passion for helping youth, and DelValle said he wants to focus on improving the job market and living conditions for low-income residents.
Collins-Lewis said she feels good about her chances of re-election, adding that she has been available to her constituents and active in local civic associations.
Councilman Joel Boé in District 9 will be challenged by Ted Rush, a contractor who said he is angry at the councilman for creating an ordinance that targeted him for digging a 25-foot deep pond in his back yard.
Boé said he proposed the ordinance regulating ponds in part because Rush has been building a pond for three years and selling dirt in front of his house without a permit.
Rush said while the fight over the pond precipitated his run, he also wants to cut wasteful spending and reduce crime.
Boé said he applauds anyone willing to pursue a public office, but said he hopes to be re-elected to continue resolving constituent issues.
“I want to continue to be the voice of reason on the council,” he said.
In District 11, Councilwoman Alison Gary said she will not seek re-election.
So far, only Ryan Heck, an Albemarle executive, has publicly announced he’s running. He said he’s already placed about 200 signs in his district.
Heck said the city-parish needs to stop deferring work on important infrastructure improvements.
School Board member Jerry Arbour said he is considering running against Heck but is still consulting with his family for guidance.
Arbour said he knows there’s much work to be done in the schools but is dismayed by the persistent crime problems plaguing the parish and feels he could help by joining the council.
Business owner Chauna Banks-Daniel is actively campaigning for the District 2 seat, to be left vacant by term-limited Ulysses “Bones” Addison.
Banks-Daniel said she wants to improve economic development in the district, which she said is being left behind while areas like downtown Baton Rouge and the city of Zachary are blossoming.
She is likely to be challenged by Hillery Johnson, a developer and architect who said he wants to improve economic development and entertainment opportunities in the parish, including the movie industry and sporting events.
Walker’s District 8 council seat is being sought by real estate broker Buddy Amoroso, who sits on the Baton Rouge Metro Airport Board of Commissioners. He has no publicly announced challengers.
As of late last week, no candidates had come forth to run against incumbents Trae Welch in District 1, Chandler Loupe in District 3, Scott Wilson in District 4 or Ronnie Edwards in District 5.