Former East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilman Byron Sharper announced his candidacy Tuesday for East Baton Rouge mayor-president, zeroing in on concerns about the north Baton Rouge community he used to represent.
Sharper, a Democrat, said he would devote his first two years in office to improving north Baton Rouge as he announced his candidacy in front of City Hall. He said he would make communicating with other local mayors, parish presidents, community organizations and governmental boards one of the hallmarks of his time in office.
Despite losing his Metro Council re-election bid to C. Denise Marcelle in 2008, Sharper’s name has stayed in the headlines. He was a plaintiff in two high-profile lawsuits, one to change the City Court’s districts to reflect the city’s majority black population, and another to prevent the city-parish’s School Board from shrinking its membership.
Sharper said during his announcement that he also wants to find ways to tackle the city-parish’s pervasive traffic gridlock and that he wants to work with industrial companies like ExxonMobil to bring new jobs to north Baton Rouge. He also said he wants to help bring an emergency room to north Baton Rouge.
A political adversary of Mayor-President Kip Holden, Sharper said Tuesday that their disagreements were never personal. In 2008, Sharper denied involvement when Holden accused him of handing out a smear flier during a campaign that said Holden was caught in an extramarital affair.
But Sharper said Tuesday that Holden did not do enough to help “the least of us.” Sharper said he’s especially interested in bringing infrastructure projects to places like Plank Road and Scenic Highway.
“We’re going to run with class, we’re going to run with style, and we’re going to keep it positive,” Sharper said about his campaign. He added that he knows some already have counted him out but that he believes he can be successful.
While he was a Metro Councilman in 2008, Sharper was accused of simple battery for inappropriately touching and trying to kiss an 18-year-old girl after he gave her a ride home. He completed 26 weeks of workplace sensitivity training, and the case was dismissed.
It was the second time Sharper had been accused of simple battery on a woman.
In 2006, a woman accused him of improperly touching her and propositioning her when she went to his office to look for a job, according to previous reports in The Advocate.
The woman decided not to move forward with the case, saying it was a “misunderstanding.” But the Attorney General’s Office still required Sharper to complete a pretrial intervention program.
Sharper said Tuesday that he does not expect the past scandals to affect him on the campaign trail. He pointed to a handful of women who were campaigning for him at his announcement.
“When God forgave me, I forgot all about it,” Sharper said. “That was 8½, 9 years ago. I made some bad decisions, but who hasn’t made bad decisions?”
One woman, Pattie Kelly, introduced Sharper at his news conference and praised Sharper’s leadership. She said they met when she was part of a protest at City Court.
In the race for mayor, Sharper now joins former state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, Republican Metro Councilman John Delgado and Republican former Metro Councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois.
Others who have said they are considering whether to enter the race include former Democratic Metro Councilwoman Marcelle, state Sen. Bodie White, R-Central, and Marty Maley, a Republican lawyer.