In a surprise turn of events, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board President David Tatman won re-election Friday when his lone challenger, Jerry Arbour, who also sits on the board, decided to challenge another incumbent School Board member, Evelyn Ware-Jackson.
Tatman, a Republican, is the parish School Board member whose re-election was unopposed and will consequently take office Jan. 1 as the representative for the new District 9. Tatman also was unopposed when he first ran for School Board in 2010.
In switching to challenge Ware-Jackson for District 5, Arbour joins two other challengers, Patty Merrick, a former schoolteacher in Baton Rouge, and W.T. Winfield, who served on the School Board previously from 2008 to 2010. Merrick and Winfield are black Democrats. Arbour is a white Republican.
“I believe that’s a white district,” Arbour said.
Arbour noted that while the new District 5 is majority black when it comes to residents, white people consistently outvote black people in elections there. The new district also covers ground he ran in before.
“Six of my very best white precincts were put in that district,” Arbour said.
Both Arbour and Winfield were allies on the board and often voted together when they served. They also were targets of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and business leaders in 2010 and were challenged by candidates backed by those groups. Winfield lost and Arbour won re-election by 100 votes in a heavily Republican district. Ware-Jackson was supported by the groups.
“I told (Winfield) today,” Arbour said. “He was alright with it.”
Neither Arbour or Winfield live in the new District 5, which was approved by the School Board on July 24. If either win, they will have to move before they take the oath of office in January.