The East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party endorsed businessman Jordan Piazza for mayor-president, picking the 32-year-old political newcomer over former longtime GOP state Rep. Steve Carter and Metro Councilman Matt Watson.
Woody Jenkins, the chairman of the local party, said he was impressed by Piazza's "youth and vitality," ability to persuasively articulate complex ideas, and "solidly conservative" stances against "big government" and higher taxes.
Jenkins also highlighted Piazza's pledge to lift a local mandate that requires customers wear face coverings inside businesses, and said that, as the owner of Uncle Earl's Bar, Piazza has "felt the pinch of government."
Piazza said in an interview that he'd recommend residents wear face masks, but argued that the mandate and stay-at-home orders were ineffective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus — a point that local and state public health officials and hospital leaders have disputed.
The three GOP candidates were each asked to answer a list of 62 questions and appear before the 17 members of the party's parish executive committee. Those officials then gave an up-or-down vote on whether to endorse each of the three candidates, with multiple endorsements possible.
Piazza was the only contender to earn a majority of votes.
Watson said in an interview that Jenkins' faction of the GOP often wants to "hear the most ardently right wing talking points which don't resonate with the vast majority of people who find themselves between the extremes of both parties."
Watson described himself as a moderate, "big tent Republican," and has previously said that political labels make little sense on a local level, where the day-to-day work of municipal government is largely nonpartisan.
Watson charged Piazza — who voted for Sharon Weston Broome in 2016 — with flip-flopping to the right, though Piazza said he's been a registered Republican his entire life.
"Matt's trying to discredit me because he's too weak to stand on his own," Piazza countered, adding that the fact that the local GOP passed up Watson and Carter "says a lot more about them than it does about me."
In a brief statement, Steve Carter, who served in the state legislature for 12 years, said, "In life, you win some and lose some. I feel confident that the voters will have their voice heard on Election Day."
Several of Carter's former colleagues in the legislature have publicly endorsed his candidacy, including state Sen. Bodi White and Representatives Rick Edmonds, Paula Davis, and Scott McKnight.
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