What should have been a straightforward appointment to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council for a short-term replacement for Republican Buddy Amoroso — but was complicated last week when four Democrats said they would boycott the process — should finally conclude Thursday.

Amoroso’s widow, Denise, is the only person who most council members say has asked to be appointed to the position. And yet, the process of naming her to the seat has become a contentious political drama pitting a grieving widow against long-held partisan resentment on the council.

If all goes as most council members expect, Denise Amoroso will secure the seven votes she needs to fill her husband’s council seat until a special election next March. Given the bumpy road leading up to Thursday’s meeting, her appointment could come down to a single vote.

Buddy Amoroso died late last month when a motorist struck the bicycle he was riding in West Feliciana Parish. Four days after he was buried, four Metro Council Democrats released a statement saying they would abstain from voting for anyone to fill Amoroso’s empty seat, triggering outrage from within their own party, from political foes and from a broad swath of the community.

The four had hoped their move would prevent the council from being able to fill the seat and leave the task to Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. Perhaps he would name a Democrat to the post, creating a 6-6 split between Democrats and Republicans, rather than leaving a GOP majority. Edwards’ staff said council members never contacted them about the ploy.

The four Democrats who made the announcement — Chauna Banks, LaMont Cole, Donna Collins-Lewis and Erika Green — have remained silent since their July 10 announcement. They have repeatedly ignored calls from The Advocate since then, and Collins-Lewis said Wednesday that she had no comment. Cole sent a statement hours after the original announcement that said the group would meet with Denise Amoroso and “revisit” the decision afterward.

Five Metro Council Republicans have said they will back Denise Amoroso for the seat. The sixth council Republican, Chandler Loupe, did not return messages Wednesday. And one Democrat, Tara Wicker, has also pledged to support Denise Amoroso. It’s long-standing tradition on the East Baton Rouge Metro Council, and often in Louisiana politics, that spouses be considered first when filling the seats of public officials who die during their terms.

Some have questioned that tradition while still backing Denise Amoroso, while others have blamed tradition for problems plaguing Baton Rouge, including disinvestment in the northern parts of the city that the four Democrats represent.

“I hope it’s a peaceful meeting and I hope everyone is allowed to express their thoughts on this issue,” said Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg on Wednesday. “I do have a concern about it simply being automatic that the spouse of the person automatically takes that position. But in this case, she’s the only one that has talked to me.”

Most council members have echoed Freiberg’s comment that Denise Amoroso is the only person who has requested to fill the seat. It’s unclear whether the four Democrats who said they would abstain from voting will make a move to appoint someone else to the seat.

Their announcement about not supporting anyone was widely considered a political miscalculation, as strategists from within their own party and Democratic Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome condemned it, though a group of six local pastors — three of them representing Shiloh Missionary Baptist — released a video in support of the council members. Some of pastors in the video have served on local boards connected to the Metro Council, including the Rev. Errol Domingue's service on the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging board and the Rev. Tommie Gispson’s service on the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority board.

The Metro Council will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday in City Hall, and their meeting will include a public hearing for anyone who wishes to speak about the appointment to Amoroso’s seat. Though candidates often submit applications for board appointments that the Metro Council controls, the council administrator’s office said Wednesday that they have not received any applications for the seat.

Republican Councilman Matt Watson said Wednesday that the voters of Amoroso’s district have largely been forgotten in the discussion about whether a Democrat should fill the seat. Amoroso won more than 66 percent of the vote when he was elected in 2016 to his second term.

“I have full confidence that there will be a continuation of the representation that District 8 chose, overwhelmingly, in 2016 through the electing of Denise Amoroso to fill out the next nine months of Buddy’s seat,” Watson said. “Anyone else who lives in District 8 who wants to legally run for that seat has from now until March to make their case.”


Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​