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Reelected Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, surrounded by family and staff, speaks to the at her election night party Saturday at Embassy Suites.

Sharon Weston Broome widened her margin of victory in Saturday's runoff by 10 percentage points compared to 2016 when she also faced off against a Republican to secure her first term as mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish.

The city-parish's first Black female mayor made gains in precincts within the upper southeastern parts of the parish and in a chunk of Zachary that had previously gone to state Sen. Bodie White in 2016. Broome also maintained a strong hold on the city's moderate white voters, who proved essential in her historic 2016 victory.

Local pollsters had assumed her opponent, former state Rep. Steve Carter, would make significant dents in that base given that most of the city's educated, moderate white voters resided in the Republican legislator's former district.

The fact that he didn't, along with the gains Broome made between the runoffs in 2016 and this year, is more evidence to pundits that East Baton Rouge Parish is no longer a slam dunk for Republicans in parishwide races, especially candidates who choose to appeal to the shrinking pool of hard-right voters.

Baton Rouge political consultant John Couvillon says that's where Carter went wrong in his match-up against Broome. 

"His message targeted a Republican base which isn't present in Baton Rouge," Couvillon said. "There was a solid wall of blue support Steve Carter was unable to crack."

In the weeks leading up to Saturday's runoff, Carter's campaign was helped  by baseless claims of voter fraud, which his campaign would not address, issued by state Republican Party, building off rhetoric from President Donald Trump following his loss in the November primaries.

"His messaging talking about voter fraud was not the correct thing to talk about right now if you're trying to get crossover voters who voted Democrat in the primary," Couvillon said. 

Carter's camp also tried to appeal to the parish's hard-leaning conservative voters with ads criticizing the "defund the police" movement and boasting his military background and support of President Trump.

"Everyone thought he would diminish her strength since he also represented those areas before," local pollster Bernie Pinsonat said Monday. "He had potential, but he just didn't do as well as Bodi."

Four years ago, in the mayoral runoff, Broome won with only a 4% margin. In that election, White drew 48% of the vote compared to Broome's 53%. 

On Saturday, Broome secured her second term by collecting 57% of the votes cast in their year's runoff, while Carter received 43%.

Pinsonat points out that Carter's 43% equals the total percentage points all four of the GOP candidates earned combined in the Nov. 3 primaries, meaning that Carter was unable to build on the Republican base. 

By contrast, White headed into the 2016 runoff after pulling 29% of the votes out of the 12 candidates that year. The total percentage points Republicans received in that year's primary was also 43%, which White managed to improve upon by 5 percentage points.

"That tells you a lot," Pinsonat said. "Steve didn't improve by even 1%. Since Bobby Simpson, Democrats have controlled the mayor's office."

While much of the vote breakdown across the parish mirrored the results of the 2016 runoff, Saturday's race saw Broome flip a precinct in the Honey Cut Bayou area that was tied four years ago. She also flipped nearby precincts throughout Sherwood Forest that had previously gone to White, and south of Florida Boulevard to Interstate 12 near Millerville Road. 

And she flipped a precinct in Zachary in the Cypress Bayou area. 

Broome on Monday attributed her gains and overall victory to the variety of connections her administration has forged with voters. It's an effort that involved taking a broad approach to getting her message out. 

"You don't have to be in front of the camera to show your effectiveness as a leader," she said. "I convened regularly with various stakeholders in the community; spent time in neighborhoods all over this city and been accessible and available to my constituents."

"I've taken a holistic approach that considers every citizen and constituent group," she added. 

Looking forward, the results from mayoral race in 2016 and this year's elections should serve as a warning to Republican candidates in the future running in parishwide elections.

Although there will be exceptions, Pinsonat says in future races those candidates need to secure a substantial foothold in the city-parish's Black and Democrat base to win office.

Democrats in all three of the four parishwide races last year all pulled in more than 40% of the votes against longstanding Republican incumbents. 

"(Republican incumbents) may win, but it's certainly not the cinch it has been in the past," Pinsonat said. "Four years from now...yeah you could say the sheriff will get reelected, but it's not guaranteed."


Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com