Sharon Weston Broome (left) and Steve Carter (right)

Sharon Weston Broome (left) and Steve Carter (right)

As Sharon Weston Broome and Steve Carter prepare for a Dec. 5 runoff in the race for East Baton Rouge Parish mayor-president, their campaigns are asking: Where did they succeed, and where is there room for improvement? 

Broome, the incumbent, ran strong throughout much of the city-parish on Election Day, winning more than 50% of the vote in 151 out of 329 precincts. She picked up considerable support in Baker and elsewhere along the Plank Road corridor, as well as in Gardere and Mayfield. 

Still, out of 205,000 votes cast, Broome came 4,000 votes short of securing a second term outright. Some of her allies have blamed that on state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, the only other Black candidate in the race, who captured 14,600 votes and shaved off 20% of the vote in many portions of Mid City north of Florida Boulevard. 

"Denise Marcelle running in this race 100% prevented the mayor from winning and she should be ashamed of herself for running," said Michael Beychok, a longtime Broome advisor.

Beychok estimated that Marcelle pulled between 10 percent and 15 percent of the Black vote. 

Marcelle said it was insulting to assume that her supporters would have automatically voted for Broome if she hadn't run. She said a run-off was all but assured by the time she entered the race, after Tara Wicker, another Black Democrat, announced her intention to run (Wicker was disqualified by a court).

"The fact of the matter is, over 50% of voters in the parish pushed their button for someone other than Broome, so a lot of people weren't satisfied," Marcelle said. 

Where Carter won

Carter, meanwhile, fared best in the southern half of the parish, notably in areas along Highland and Perkins road and in and around Shenandoah. He had his best showing in precincts located in Santa Maria, Southdowns and Pollard Estates. 

Still, Carter lost out in parts of Central to businessman Jordan Piazza and Metro Council Member Matt Watson. That could be a sign that the former three-term lawmaker has work ahead of him to energize turnout in that reliably conservative region, said Roy Fletcher, a political consultant who worked for Piazza's campaign. 

110720 EBR mayor-president election

EAST BATON ROUGE MAYOR-PRESIDENT ELECTION RESULTS: Map which candidates received the majority of the vote in each precinct on Election Day

Dismal turnout in Central four years ago for then-mayoral candidate Bodi White helped propel Broome to victory in the runoff. 

Fletcher said energizing voters in Central may be difficult given the constraints the coronavirus pandemic has placed on retail politics, which he said is an important facet of winning over voters in the more rural parts of the parish. 

"The question is does Carter have the energy and stamina to run this race and engender the kind of turnout that Bodi White couldn't four years ago," Fletcher said. 

Carter does have a leg up on his predecessor, given his longtime connection to residents living around LSU, said Bernie Pinsonat, a local political consultant. Carter, a former LSU tennis coach, represented much of the region while serving in the statehouse and pulled ahead with a majority of the vote there Tuesday. 

Still, Broome held her own, and was able to pull in roughly 25% of the vote in the predominately White neighborhoods around Kenilworth and Southdowns.

That's a troubling sign for Republicans, said pollster John Couvillon. He thinks that, in order for the GOP to win parishwide, it needs to have near-unanimous support in almost every predominantly White precinct.

Broome won in the runoff four years ago, in part thanks to support from voters in that area, which data show include politically moderate residents with higher levels of education, Couvillon said. 

Fletcher said Carter may also face difficulty balancing his message between the more moderate voters near LSU and conservative voters in Central, noting that "he's got to frame one message that can be sold in two different places."

What will turnout look like?

The lessons learned from Tuesday's election may ultimately be moot given how dramatically the electorate is expected to shrink come Dec. 5.

Turnout in 2016 dropped from 190,933 in the general election to 115,058 in the runoff, and that was with a competitive U.S. Senate runoff topping the ballot. The highest profile race on the Dec. 5 ballot will be the race for mayor-president. 

“Both of them have the same challenge: turnout, turnout, turnout," Pinsonat said. 

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