Five Democrats qualify to fill Ronnie Edwards’ seat for Louisiana state representative election _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- The desk of State Rep. Ronnie Edwards, D-Baton Rouge, in the House Chamber at the State Capitol is covered with flowers, and her empty chair draped in black on Thursday, as members mourn her Wednesday death at the age of 63, which ended her battle with late stage pancreatic cancer. While Edwards was recently sworn into the Louisiana Legislature, she’s better known for her six years serving the Baton Rouge Metro Council, where she was known for her passion for affordable housing and her warm demeanor.

Five candidates are running for the open seat in the state House of Representatives left vacant by Ronnie Edwards, who died late last month after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

The special election to fill the District 29 seat, which makes up much of north Baton Rouge as well as Port Allen and Brusly on the west side of the Mississippi River, was called for April 9. A runoff is scheduled for May 14 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote.

All five of the candidates who qualified last week are Democrats. They include lawyer Edmond Jordan, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board Member Vereta Lee, Edwards’ former legislative assistant Tyra Banks Sterling, lawyer Victor Woods Jr. and Albert White, whose occupation could not be confirmed.

Both Jordan and Lee, a career educator who is in her third term on the School Board, ran against Edwards last fall.

Jordan, who lives in Brusly but has a law practice in Baton Rouge, made it to a runoff against Edwards in November where he was defeated. Jordan made a campaign issue out of Edwards’ health, saying he was concerned she wouldn’t be able to carry out her duties to make important votes during the special and regular sessions this year needed to address the state financial crises.

Sterling worked as an aide to Edwards while she was a Metro Councilwoman for East Baton Rouge Parish. She previously worked as an assistant to Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, D-Chicago.

Woods served as the attorney for the city of Port Allen from 1997 to 2013. He resigned in 2013 amid a heated dispute between former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter and the City Council. Slaughter was successfully recalled by voters in 2013.

At the time, Woods said his resignation was unrelated to the contentious political climate in the city.

White lives in Baton Rouge, but he did not respond to a phone call.

Edwards was inaugurated to the state House on Jan. 11, but she never got to participate in the special session. She passed away Feb. 24.

Whoever wins the seat will be jumping into the middle of what’s expected to be another difficult legislative session. The regular session begins Monday and ends June 6. Legislators already are talking about another special session being called at the conclusion of the regular session to address what’s being projected as an $800 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.