Real estate broker and investor Darryl Gissel announced Tuesday that he will run as an independent candidate to become East Baton Rouge Parish’s mayor-president in the fall.
Gissel, who was the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said political labels have become another means of breaking up unity. He said he chose to run as an independent to bring together people across different backgrounds in the city-parish, and the city is divided among political lines, racial lines and socioeconomic lines.
He is now the seventh candidate to announce that he will run for mayor-president and the second who has not held public office, though he has had high positions in political circles. Gissel was special assistant to former Gov. Dave Treen.
Gissel owns many buildings in the Spanish Town neighborhood and announced his candidacy Wednesday at a downtown building as a nod to the area he loves and has invested in. He remembered the era when Spanish Town and downtown were considered dangerous and pointed to the way they are both now thriving and in-demand.
“It’s a shining example of what we can do in this city,” he said.
Flanked by about 20 supporters, Gissel said he plans to run a grass-roots campaign funded by donations from individual supporters rather than political action committees or lobbying groups.
He said the mayor’s greatest power is the “power to convene,” and he wants more discussion about issues that have driven wedges in Baton Rouge, like the St. George incorporation effort, a backlog of more than 150,000 outstanding warrants and health care in north Baton Rouge.
Gissel identified traffic, crime and education as top priorities on his campaign.
“When people are so frustrated they’re signing a petition to break away, there’s something wrong,” he said about the failed effort to create the city of St. George in the southeast part of the parish. Gissel said he does not support the creation of St. George, but he would want to channel the frustrations behind it into bettering Baton Rouge.
He said he is interested in pursuing a variety of ways to clear misdemeanor warrants, like night court, but that it starts with ensuring the District Attorney’s Office, City Court judges, law enforcement and others involved are on the same page.
Gissel said his decision to run was a surprise even to himself. He said he expects to generate name recognition by spreading his message across the city-parish and that he hopes people will be receptive to the message of a political outsider.
“We just need to let those people know who Darryl is, and the rest will follow,” said Susan Turner, one of his campaign co-chairs and owner of landscape architect firm Suzanne Turner Associates.
He will run against former state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge; Republican Metro Councilman John Delgado; state Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Baton Rouge; former Democratic Metro Councilman Byron Sharper; former Republican Metro Councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois; and former professional football player Greg LaFleur, who has not announced his party affiliation.