By REBEKAH ALLEN
Advocate staff writer
October 26, 2012
East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker is accusing her opponent, Larry Selders, of resorting to dirty and illegal campaign tactics, including tearing down her signs and providing rides to supporters for early voting.
Selders maintains he has not broken any laws, adding that he was disappointed Wicker is blaming his campaign for the vandalism.
Selders circulated fliers offering free transportation to early voting sites this week for voters at Southern University.
The fliers offered vouchers for free meals and encouraged voters to follow him on Twitter.
Meg Casper, press secretary for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the district attorney would have to determine whether the meals and the rides are being offered in exchange for their votes, which would be illegal.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III did not respond to an email or a call to his cellphone Thursday for comment.
Wicker said she notified Moore’s office and city police about the busing and the vandalism of her signs.
Selders said he is no longer offering meal vouchers, because he was advised it may be illegal. He said he wanted to offer them only because he thought students may be missing lunch to vote.
Selders also said the busing is available to both his supporters and Wicker’s, as well as voters who are in other districts.
“With early voting, everyone goes to the same central location, so we’re not discriminating against anyone,” Selders said.
Wicker also said she thought Selders was behind the Wednesday night vandalism of her billboard on East Washington Street and the theft of many of her signs in constituents’ yards.
Someone used red spray paint to scribble over a picture of Wicker’s face, over her eyes and mouth, on the billboard.
Wicker said while she was driving in her district Thursday, she was approached by a boy who told her he saw boys on the back of a truck Wednesday night driving through the streets pulling up her signs.
“He said they were hired by Larry,” Wicker said.
As of early Thursday afternoon, about 10 of her campaign signs had been reported missing from constituents’ yards, she said.
Wicker said she believes Selders’ team was responsible for the thefts and vandalism because they felt threatened by the success of her campaign.
“It’s real obvious that the people have chosen and that’s upset some of the people in Larry’s camp,” Wicker said. “It’s just frustrating that we have to stoop to these kind of tactics.”
Selders said he has nothing to do with any of the missing signs or the billboard.
“I was just as shocked as she was when I heard about the billboard,” he said. “We don’t run a smear campaign. We run clean politics. If it was anybody who supports me, then I’m embarrassed.”
The two Democrats face off for the District 10 Metro Council seat Nov. 6. Early voting continues through Tuesday, except on Sunday.
Selders ran against Wicker in 2008, and he lost by six votes.
District 10 encompasses LSU, Southern University, downtown and parts of the Garden District.