Steve Myers needs 40 days.
Invoking biblical imagery like Noah in the flood, Moses on the mountain and Jesus in the wilderness, Myers said momentous event changes can occur in 40 days — and that’s how long his campaign for East Baton Rouge mayor-president will last.
Myers, a no-party candidate, said the idea came to him in a moment of inspiration.
“I counted back from Election Day to determine how many messages we could realistically deliver at one a day,” he said in an email. “At day 40, it dawned on me that was a special number in the Bible.”
Myers, a Catholic, said the number resonated with him, so he made it the theme of his quest to become mayor-president.
Beginning later this week, Myers plans to publish a daily newsletter called “Myers’ Message,” distributed by email. Each email will focus on a different issue.
“Give me one minute a day” and read the newsletter, he beseeched voters at a Sept. 13 mayoral forum.
The plan for the campaign, Myers said, is to help voters see the entire range of issues facing the city.
“We will have about 40 issues,” Myers said.
He disparaged consultants, who he said advise candidates to focus on three issues at most.
“I hate single-issue candidates,” Myers said.
Some of the issues that will be addressed in the newsletters, according to a draft list provided by Myers, include the proper role of government, red-light cameras, construction permits and repealing laws.
Some of the newsletters will contain a “daily double,” where Myers will discuss two issues, according to the list. Others will discuss a “surprise issue.”
Myers said a key issue for him is protecting individual property rights, a topic he knows something about as the manager of about 50 properties in Baton Rouge, “40 or so” of which he owns or co-owns.
Myers also has proposed raising the salaries of Metro Council members and treating those positions like a full-time job. Currently, Metro Council members earn $1,000 per month with an additional $800 in monthly travel allowance, council administrator Brian Mayers said.
“The legislative branch, i.e. the Metro Council, needs to have a little bit more resources to do some questioning,” Myers said.
Myers’ unorthodox campaign is not limited to the issues.
He plans to hold a raffle, offering supporters a chance to win $10,000 if they can guess how many votes he will receive Nov. 6.
A maximum of 250 tickets will be sold, and each ticket will cost $250.
“We are going to have some fun with supporters having to pick the number of votes,” he said.
Myers said he and a friend have also written a campaign song. Myers described the song as a parody that will be a “whimsical, hand-clapping, toe-tapping, college-style campaign fight song.”
Myers faces two more well-known and better-financed candidates — current Mayor-President Kip Holden, a Democrat seeking a third term as mayor, and Metro Councilman Mike Walker, a Republican. A fourth candidate, Garden District Nursery owner Gordon Mese, is running on a no-party affiliation.
“Quixotic is not a pejorative in my lexicon,” Myers said.
He said he is seriously focused on getting elected, despite the odds against him.
“I want to win,” he said. “But I will be just as happy if all the issues are raised,” comparing the election to the Arab Spring last year, when popular uprisings led to the overthrow of several governments in the Middle East.
“We can have a Baton Rouge Autumn,” he said, joking.
One thing he won’t do, he said, is change who he is to appeal to more voters.
“I am not going to be someone else in order to win a mayor’s election,” he said.
Myers unconventional campaign does not surprise those who know him well.
“He’s a fiercely independent guy,” said former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown. “And he’s very, very talented.”
Brown said he’s known the candidate since Myers since was a boy. Myers’ father was a high school coach and teacher in New Orleans.
Brown said Myers came to see him when he was thinking about running.
“I said I can’t support you, because I am supporting Kip, who I want to win,” Brown said of that meeting. “But I think it’s wonderful you’re running.”
Voters can count on Myers being a straight shooter, Brown said.
“He’s pathologically honest,” Brown said. “He’s very blunt.”
Brown said he saw that when Myers ran Tiger Rag, a weekly publication focused on LSU sports, from 1978 until 1993.
“Steve was pretty aggressive, at times maybe even cantankerous,” Brown said, adding that the two of them sometimes “locked horns.”
The former coach said he advised Myers to not criticize anyone and to “present what you want to see for Baton Rouge.”
Brown lauded Myers as one who is quick to apologize when he is wrong and quick to forgive when he has been wronged.
“He’ll probably befriend the other three candidates,” Brown said.
After a Sept. 13 mayoral forum hosted by the Federation of Greater Baton Rouge Civic Associations, Myers and fellow no-party candidate Gordon Mese chatted in the parking lot for a couple of hours, a talk Mese described as “pleasant.”
Myers is no stranger to running a campaign for public office. He is, however, a stranger to winning one.
“The first race was the best one,” he said, referring to his 1991 challenge of state Rep. Carl Crane for the state District 70 seat in the state Legislature.
Myers ran that campaign as an insurgent, persuading his supporters to crowd a parish Republican Party caucus and endorse him over the incumbent Crane.
Myers missed the runoff for that election by 231 votes. Crane defeated a Democrat in the runoff.
In 1992, Myers ran as a Republican for the 4th Congressional District and lost. And in 1995, he ran again as a Republican for the District 70 state representative seat and lost.
The following year, he challenged incumbent Congressman Richard Baker for the 6th District and lost. Myers ran as a Democrat in that race.
Two years later, as a Democrat, Myers challenged Baker again and simultaneously ran for East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. He lost both of those races.
Myers’ lone electoral win came in 1996, when he won a seat on the Democratic State Central Committee.
After losing the race for the school board, Myers opted to focus on business after receiving his real estate license, he said.
“I jumped back in this time because I felt there was an opportunity and a need to bring more issues to the public’s attention than just crime and traffic, which we all know are problems,” Myers said.
He said he will kick off his unusual campaign Thursday, targeting Baton Rouge’s undecided voters.
“Our plan is to go viral,” Myers said. “Lots of stuff can happen in the last 30 days.”