Gov. John Bel Edwards endorsed East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s re-election bid Wednesday, reaffirming their longtime friendship but at the same time alienating a state Capitol ally a week before a special legislative session.
Rep. C. Denise Marcelle said the Democratic governor’s announcement blindsided her.
“I knew they worked together in the past (but) I worked hard and diligently and gave financial contributions to his re-election campaign,” Marcelle said. “The admirable thing for him to do would have been to stay out of it until the run-off. But I’m sure she was begging him for an endorsement to try and get more votes.”
Broome and Marcelle are the only Democrats in the seven-person field and political pundits have said it is unlikely that any candidate could win the race outright. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote Nov. 3, the top two finishers will move to a Dec. 19 runoff.
In addition to Marcelle, Broome faces Metro Councilman Matt Watson, businessman Jordan Piazza, newcomer Frank Smith III and former state Rep. Steve Carter — all Republicans. Baton Rouge attorney E Eric Guirard, an independent, is also in the race.
Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat said he doesn’t consider Edwards’ endorsement of Broome a shock. He also doesn’t think it improves her chances all that much of avoiding a run-off.
“His support will likely help her some with moderate Republicans in the LSU area — especially if she makes it in a run-off with someone like Steve Carter,” he said. “But it won’t be the single thing that puts her over the top.”
Pinsonat also acknowledged the governor supporting Broome over Marcelle has the potential to fracture his relationship with the state representative. Legislators are set to return to Baton Rouge next week for a special session, with the coronavirus pandemic, the response to Hurricane Laura and the unemployment trust fund on the agenda.
Marcelle said she campaigned hard for Edwards in her district in his victory over Republican Eddie Rispone and was not pleased that she didn’t receive a heads-up about Wednesday’s announcement. She said she learned about it through local media news alerts.
“I don’t think he could have got my voters without me, but I’ll keep running my race,” she said. “This just shows me who people really are.”
Edwards endorsed Broome when she first ran in 2016, but only in the runoff. Marcelle was among candidates who didn’t advance. Broome last year supported Edwards’ re-election bid.
Edwards, in his first term, backed some of Broome’s efforts, including in the incorporation efforts for the proposed city of St. George, which Broome is passionately against.
In endorsing Broome in 2016, the governor characterized the city-parish's first black female mayor as someone with a "willingness and ability to bring people together to achieve results."
Edwards on Wednesday praised Broome for what he called “tireless” work during her administration’s response in the coronavirus pandemic.
Broome was one of the few elected officials in the Baton Rouge area who didn't balk at Edwards' restrictions on businesses and residents to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. She has drawn criticism from some of her challengers and business leaders who were frustrated she took most of her cues from the governor's office when it came to the city-parish's response to the virus spread.
The governor also praised her ambitious $1 billion roads improvement plan voters approved last year.
"Thanks to Mayor Broome, Baton Rouge's best days are to come," Edwards told reporters at Broome’s campaign headquarters Wednesday. "I've seen firsthand how she tackles big problems, like traffic, crime, drainage and the health of the people in the parish."
Broome, in turn, said she often brags about having “the best governor,” calling him a “friend” that became her partner in politics over the course of their first terms in office.
“I have adopted a theme of transformative leadership in trying times,” Broome said. “I’m ready to continue to do this work. I’m going to dig in and dig deeper than ever before.”