Challengers not satisfied with incumbent’s leadership
Two political newcomers who are attempting to knock off incumbent East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman R.J. “Smokie” Bourgeois say fighting among members of the council is the main reason they are in the race.
Republican John Delgado and Democrat Rose Carey both say they would be less combative than Bourgeois, who is known for his colorful demeanor and often blunt comments as the District 12 representative.
“I got in it because I was frustrated with the leadership coming from the city council,” Delgado said. “They were too busy fighting.”
Carey, 61, cited the same reason. “I would bring more unity,” she said. “I am for getting along.”
District 12 includes the Southdowns and Kenilworth areas. The primary is Nov. 6. A runoff, if needed, would be held Dec. 8.
Carey said she always felt the call of politics, but didn’t have time to run until she retired.
Her first priority could be “to be a servant to the people,” she said. Her second priority is to attack Baton Rouge’s crime problem, she said.
“We need better policing, to have more police visible,” Carey said. “I feel that’s part of the problem.”
Carey said the city-parish must help educate those who might be lured into crime, and give them job training.
Carey would support additional funding for the police department, she said.
Delgado, 38, agreed with Carey’s assessment of crime as a key issue. He favors attacking nuisance crimes, such as blight and panhandling, first.
“We need to fix small problems before they become big problems,” he said. “And we need to return to a neighborhood policing model.”
If elected, Delgado would fight against raising taxes, he said.
“We need to look at privatization,” he said. “I think that before we reach into the pockets of taxpayers, we need to exhaust every other possible alternative.”
Bourgeois, a Republican, has been a frequent critic of downtown projects, such as the downtown library. He has proposed regulation that would have required food trucks to get permission from owners of property on which they park and another measure that will force door-to-door salesmen to seek a permit. The food truck proposal failed.
Despite having joked about possibly losing the race, Bourgeois insists he is “in it to win it,” the slogan on his campaign signs.
“Why would I be walking the streets if I didn’t want to win?” he asked. “I fully expect to win.”
Bourgeois, 70, has been a longtime vocal opponent of Rouzan, the controversial Perkins Road development.
“I oppose what they are trying to do, a sardine-can development,” he said, adding that he is not opposed to all development. “If you could have broken it up into one-third acre lots, I think people would have been for it,” he said.
Delgado said he would advocate holding Rouzan’s developer, Tommy Spinoza, to the original plans.
“The developers made an agreement with the city about what type of development it’s going to be,” Delgado said. “And I will make sure it is built according to those agreements.”
Carey said she would give local residents final say.
“If they don’t want it disturbed, then that’s what I am for,” she said.
Carey said she would also stand with residents who oppose the request by the owners of a lot at the southwest corner of Perkins and Stuart Road to rezone the property to allow for a medical office to be put on the site.
“Once you start rezoning, when one comes in, here comes another and another,” she said.
Bourgeois said he also opposed the rezoning, and Delgado said he had concerns about placing a proposed psychiatric office in such proximity to a school.
Delgado has raised nearly 10 times as much money as Bourgeois, and Carey has not raised any funds yet, something both Bourgeois and Carey said would favor Delgado.
“Money talks,” Bourgeois said before noting that he hasn’t asked people for campaign donations.
“I call those begging parties,” he said. “I don’t ask people for money.”
Carey plans to hold at least one fundraiser, she said.
“I am going to go with what I have,” she said. “I am going to do the best I can do.”