The East Baton Rouge race for mayor-president is five months away, but the in-fighting in the crowded candidate pool has already begun.
Mayoral candidate and Realtor Darryl Gissel filed complaints Monday with the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors and the Louisiana Realtors Association over a donation they plan to make to mayoral candidate and state Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central.
Gissel, who is running as an independent, is frustrated that Louisiana Realtors CEO Norman Morris asked the local chapter a few weeks ago to consider donating money to White’s mayoral campaign. The local government relations committee voted to ask for a $5,000 early donation to White’s campaign, which would come from the state’s Louisiana Realtors Political Action Committee.
“It’s a little bit offensive when you’re a Realtor and it’s a closed shop,” Gissel said. “From the association, it’s not really good to alienate eight other candidates who weren’t even given the courtesy to come in for an interview.”
Morris said Monday that the decision to donate to White came from the local Realtors. He said he asked them to consider supporting White because of the state senator’s track record.
“Senator White has been a very strong, strong supporter of Realtor issues, real estate issues over the course of his career in the House and in the Senate,” Morris said.
Herb Gomez, the executive vice president of the Greater Baton Rouge Association, said the dispute between Gissel and the association should not be a public one.
“I’ll respond to Mr. Gissel and to any other matter but it’s an internal affair,” Gomez said.
Gissel also used his complaints to question whether White has the standing to call himself a Realtor, which is only meant to be used by National Association of Realtors members. Gissel attached the April 2016 Greater Baton Rouge Association roster, which does not list White as a member.
However, White is listed as a member in a 2012 local roster, and multiple national Realtor listings checked by The Advocate include White’s name. White did not return messages for this story.
White calls himself a realtor on his Louisiana State Senate biography page, but calls himself a “real estate agent” on his website for his past state senate campaign.
White has presented himself as the Republican establishment candidate thus far in the race. Gissel said he is running as an independent because he is tired of the partisan divides in Baton Rouge, though Gissel was the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Those who say they are running against include: Republican Metro Councilman John Delgado; Republican former Metro Councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois; Democratic former State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome; Democratic State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle; Democratic former Metro Councilman Byron Sharper; Democratic former NFL player Greg LaFleur; and independent former city-parish accountant Beverly “B.J.” Amador.