BR.pressclubdebate.100620 0257 bf.jpg

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, at lectern, speaks at The Press Club of Baton Rouge in-person forum for candidates running for the East Baton Rouge Parish mayor-presidentÕs office Monday Oct. 5, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. The hour-long forum was outdoors under the pavilion at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden, 4560 Essen Lane South, at the intersection with I-10. Taking part were, from left, former state Rep. Steve Carter, attorney E. Eric Guirard, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome (at lectern), state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, businessman Jordan Piazza, and Metro Councilman Matt Watson as moderator Jim Engster, standing watches from the right background.

Since the beginning of the year, the six candidates running for Baton Rouge mayor-president have collectively raised more than $1.1 million, with donations coming from nearly 1,300 individual donors. 

Incumbent Sharon Weston Broome, who is running for her second term, is leaps and bounds ahead of her rivals, raking in $523,400 — or nearly half of all contributions. 

She's followed in fundraising by former state Rep. Steve Carter with $272,400; businessman Jordan Piazza with $153,500; Metro Council Member Matt Watson with $88,500; state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle with $66,300; and attorney E Eric Guirard with $750.

The campaign finance reports filed periodically with the Louisiana Ethics Administration offer more than a simple snapshot of the fundraising horse-race. They also show how Baton Rouge's business titans and political powerbrokers are splitting donations among the six candidates. 

Both Broome, a Democrat, and Carter, a Republican, appear to have solidified support among the major donors in their respective party establishments, while Piazza, a political newcomer, has capitalized on his family and business connections to woo donors.

Watson, who has among the fewest big-dollar donations of all the candidates, said his campaign has been powered by small-dollar donations from everyday residents who typically don't contribute to political candidates. His average donation sits around $319, the lowest of all the candidates. He's followed by Piazza at $714; Marcelle at $762; Broome at $933; and Carter at $1,335.

The maximum donation an individual can give to a campaign is $5,000, though legal entities like LLCs and political action committees can also donate, allowing some donors to give tens of thousands of dollars in additional contributions.  

Sharon Weston Broome 

In addition to raising the most of any candidate, Broome also has the most contributors, at more than 500 individual donors. Broome's campaign coffers appear to have benefited from her status as an incumbent, with dozens of contractors and Democratic bigwigs lining up behind her.

At least $52,000 of Broome's total fundraising haul came from engineering and consulting firms who have been awarded contracts under the city-parish's $1 billion MovEBR roads program.

The largest donations came from CSRS, Inc. at $10,000; C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates at $7,000; GO-TECH at $5,000; HNTB at $5,000; the Beta Group Engineering and Construction at $5,000; Atlas Technical Consultants at $3,600; and Evan-Graves Engineering at $3,500. 

Much of Broome's big-dollar donations are connected to Jim Bernhard, a member of her reelection committee who previously chaired the state Democratic Party and founded the Shaw Group. Bernhard and members of his family donated $20,000, and another $5,000 came from Jeffrey Jenkins, a partner at Bernhard Capital Partners.

Firms connected to Charles Landry, a local attorney who frequently represents developers, donated at least $16,000 to Broome's campaign, though Landry is also connected to $5,000 given to Carter's campaign. 

Broome also raked in support from several prominent Democrats, including $5,000 from a PAC associated with Gov. John Bel Edwards, $5,000 from Claude Leach Jr., another former state party chair, and $2,500 from U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond's campaign. 

Steve Carter 

Steve Carter caught several donors by surprise when he unexpectedly entered the race for mayor-president. But, in just a few months, the former three-term GOP state representative raised $272,400 from nearly 200 different donors. 

The single biggest donor to Carter's campaign is Art Favre, the chief executive of Performance Contractors, who donated $25,000 through five corporate entities and another $5,000 in personal contributions. 

Favre is a prominent booster for the proposed city of St. George and previously contributed $50,000 to a political action committee that took out ads encouraging residents to vote for the new city. Carter also received a $1,000 donation from Chris Rials, one of the organizers of the St. George movement.

Carter received several donations from engineering and construction firms, including $5,000 from MAPP and $7,500 through firms associated with Johnny Fife, the president of Arkel Constructors. 

Eddie Rispone, last year's GOP gubernatorial candidate, is serving as Carter's campaign co-chair and donated $5,000. He was joined in his maximum contribution by several other well-known Republicans, including state Sen. Bodi White, state Rep. Stuart Bishop and state Rep. Scott McKnight. 

A number of Carter's donations can be traced back to his own family connections. Carter's sister-in-law Gladys Soloman Brown gave $4,734 and Crescent Bank, run by his brother-in-law Gary Soloman gave $5,000. 

Jordan Piazza

Jordan Piazza, a political newcomer, credited his father Gus Piazza, the late owner of the original Phil's Oyster Bar on Government Street, with laying the groundwork for his relationships with Baton Rouge's political and social elite. 

That's come in handy for Piazza, who has been able to leverage those relationships to win over several titans in the business community. 

Don Carmouche, the Baton Rouge-based attorney who has spent much of the last two decades suing oil and gas companies over pollution and wetlands loss, is among Jordan Piazza's top donors. The first-time candidate received a $5,000 donation from Carmouche personally, as well as from his law firm and "Restore Our Coasts" political action committee. Piazza said his father and Carmouche were close friends. 

At least $26,500 in Piazza's contributions can be connected to family members, business associates and corporate entities related to Brandon Munn, the president of Excel Modular Scaffolding. Piazza said that he served as a duke in the Karnival Krewe de Louisiana, which is organized partly by Brandon's wife Ashely Munn. 

Matt Watson

Metro Council Member Matt Watson has among the fewest top dollar donations, but he credited the small-dollar donations from his grassroots supporters with energizing his campaign. 

His single $5,000 gift came from Judith Vitanza, who is married to Daniel Miremont, who formerly headed Compliance EnviroSystems. John Miremont, who owns Miremont Construction Consultants, also donated $2,500.

Watson also received a $2,000 contribution from Diane Baum, the chair of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Baton Rouge and the contractor originally hired to operate the now-defunct proposed tire shredding facility

C. Denise Marcelle 

Gordon McKernan, the ubiquitous Baton Rouge trial lawyer, gave state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle at least $17,500 through five corporate entities. Marcelle, who often sports a "G" baseball cap, has worked as a legal assistant and community outreach coordinator for Gordan McKernan Injury Attorneys since 2013.

Marcelle also received a $5,000 donation from a political action committee associated with Gov. Edwards. The gift was given in August, nearly a month before Edwards publicly announced his support for Broome's reelection. Marcelle also received a $200 donation from state Rep. Mandie Landry's campaign committee. 

Attorney E Eric Guirard has spent roughly $26,700 of his own money on his campaign. He's received two donations totaling $750. 


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater