Denise Amoroso, the widow of late Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso, will seek a temporary appointment to her husband's seat on the Metro Council and will decide later whether she wants to serve longer, a family spokesman and multiple council members confirmed Friday to The Advocate.
Buddy Amoroso died June 30 when a motorist struck him and another bicyclist in West Feliciana Parish. The Metro Council has until July 20 to pick a replacement for the Republican councilman or the task would fall to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Council members have set a meeting for July 19.
Four Democratic members of the board said this week they would not vote to appoint anyone to the vacant seat. Lacking the clout to prevent Mrs. Amoroso’s appointment, or anyone else’s, their move was seen as both symbolic and inflammatory.
A fifth Democrat on the council said she refused to go along with the ploy and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she would support Denise Amoroso, if she wanted the position. The Democrats later said they would speak with Denise Amoroso and "revisit" their decision, though none have publicly discussed the matter since.
Mike Smith, a close friend of the family and public relations consultant, confirmed Friday that Denise Amoroso had reached out to every sitting council member and told them she wanted the seat. She decided to seek it “to try to complete Buddy’s legacy for the next nine months," he said.
Buddy Amoroso was known for championing the city-parish’s use of technology and created a Smart City Committee to push those developments forward. He frequently invited veterans, law enforcement officers and Boy Scouts to meetings to commemorate their service, and he sponsored the designation last year of Jones Creek Road as a Purple Heart Trail.
He spoke openly at council meetings about his struggles with dyslexia and encouraged others with the condition to push through it. And Buddy Amoroso also advocated for better bike safety and more respect for bike riders in Baton Rouge.
If appointed, Denise Amoroso would fill the seat until an election in March and decide later whether she would run to fill the seat until 2020, the end of Buddy Amoroso’s term.
“She told me, why don’t I see if I love this job as much as Buddy did before making a decision,” Smith said.
Denise Amoroso could not be reached Friday, as she is on a family getaway, Smith said. She released a statement earlier this week that said she looked forward to talking to council members about "the best way to represent the voters of District 8, just as Buddy would've done."
She also spoke at a recent memorial bike ride for her husband about his passion for bike safety and about her surprise that Amoroso meant so much to the community.
"You people have no idea what this means to us," Denise Amoroso said July 1. "I keep joking with people that I never knew that I was married to a rock star."
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson said Friday that Denise Amoroso had reached out to him and said she wanted the seat. Wilson said he will support her, and that he's disappointed that the death of a colleague prompted the Democrats’ declaration and created further divisions on the Metro Council.
"They have the right to vote the way they want to vote, that’s fine," Wilson said. "But they have to answer the question, if something happened to them, what would they want? I don’t think there’s an issue with appointing the spouse for the vacancy."
Wilson also stressed that the vacancy is only for nine months and said anyone else who is interested in the seat can run for in next March. The election calendar would not allow the city-parish to hold an election for the vacant seat any earlier, he said.
Denise Amoroso will need seven votes to secure the appointment. If Democrats Chauna Banks, Donna Collis-Lewis, LaMont Cole and Erika Green stick by their pledge to abstain from voting for anyone, she would need votes from all six Republicans and the one remaining Democrat, Tara Wicker.
Wicker has thrown her full support behind Denise Amoroso. Wicker said it was not hard to break with her Democratic colleagues because her mother always instilled in her the importance of doing the right thing, “even if you have to stand alone.”
“If I were in that same situation, that’s what I would want to happen on my behalf,” Wicker said. “I’m a firm believer that you do unto others what you have them do unto you. I gave her my vote of confidence the night of Buddy’s funeral. … I’m not the type of person that based on pressure, circumstances, changes what I tell someone.”
Wilson and Councilmen Dwight Hudson and Matt Watson each said Denise Amoroso is the only person who committed to them that she would seek the seat and who asked for their support.
“I hope that everyone comes to their senses and honors what I believe would be Buddy’s wishes, and honors what I think would be a good representation of District 8 and appoints Ms. Denise," Hudson said.
“Buddy’s not here to talk to anybody, and I certainly wish he was,” Watson added.