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Steve Carter, Republican East Baton Rouge mayor-president candidate, thanks his family during his concession speech during his election night party at his home in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Sharon Weston Broome secured her second term with her win in the run-off election victory against Carter.

When former state Rep. Steve Carter was running for mayor-president in East Baton Rouge Parish, he recognized the danger the coronavirus posed for its more than 440,000 residents.

A month after losing the election, he contracted the virus himself, landed in the hospital and never walked out. He died surrounded by family Tuesday evening at the age of 77, a family spokeswoman said.

Though he said he saw room for tweaks, Carter planned to maintain restrictions during the pandemic through actions that in many ways mirrored the current mayor’s approach while running against her.

The stance ran contrary to some of his former Republican colleagues in the Louisiana House who had unsuccessfully attempted to strike down Gov. John Bel Edward's coronavirus orders. Carter's support of those measures are part of what cost him the endorsement of the East Baton Rouge Republican Party.

Carter also voiced concern about people dropping their guard while the pandemic has slogged on for months.

“I’ll forget it because everything feels like it's back to normal when really it isn’t,” Carter said in late November. “I think too many people have relaxed how they’re treating the virus.”

On the campaign trail, he said he planned to launch an education campaign to stress the seriousness of the virus and the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing.

Though it’s unclear if Carter had planned to get the vaccine, he was just days away from being eligible to receive it — underscoring that the rollout of the vaccine to more people can’t come soon enough.

“These are the kinds of deaths that seem most tragic,” said Tulane Epidemiologist Susan Hassig. “We have a medical intervention that would have prevented it that he just wasn’t able to access.”

Rigid requirements the state has followed at the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection created groups that would get the vaccine first. The initial phase allowed only front-line health care workers as well as nursing home residents and staff.

State leaders began allowing people 70 and older to receive shots earlier this month.

Several states have also expanded vaccination rollouts for the public and frontline workers, and more than a dozen have started to vaccinate adults at high risk of severe complications from the virus.

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Louisiana has seen some recent improvements in administering the life-saving shots, but, like many other states, it struggled in the early stages of the vaccination effort.

As of Wednesday, the state ranked 18th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for distributing its share of doses, a significant improvement from prior weeks. In the early stages of vaccine distribution, the Louisiana was in the bottom 10, according to the CDC.

But even after allowing older adults to get the vaccine, that process has hit serious road bumps with supply shortages, prompting some health facilities to delay appointments until they can replenish their stocks.

Amid skepticism about taking the vaccines, health leaders have implored people to do so at the earliest chance, especially older adults and those with underlying health problems that make them more vulnerable to the virus.

“If you have an opportunity of getting the vaccine, we know it’ll prevent you from getting sick,” Hassig said.

Carter, a Republican, had represented a part of Baton Rouge in House District 68 for three terms, beginning in 2007. He chaired the House Education Committee from 2012 to 2015.

A swell of condolences from local and state leaders followed the announcement of his death. Many touched on his work at the Legislature that saw him take on issues that crossed party lines. Others reflected on his kindness and advocacy for children and education.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, Carter’s recent opponent in the fall election for mayor, called Carter “a dedicated family man, public servant, and fellow neighbor” who had “a storied career of serving our community.”

“You never saw him without a smile on his face and a hand extended to greet you,” she said. “Steve was a Baton Rougean through and through. I am tremendously sad to have lost yet another friend and neighbor to COVID-19.”

The governor ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Carter’s funeral, though arrangements haven’t been set.


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad