Republicans maintained their 7-5 edge on the East Baton Rouge Metro Council on Saturday, retaining three seats after Democrats forced runoffs in an attempt to shift the parish's governing body to the left.
The GOP held onto contested seats in the northern and southern parts of the parish and also in Central. Three other races Saturday had only Democrats in the runoff.
In the Nov. 3 primary, two of the Republican vs. Democrat matchups ended with the top two vote-getters within 4 percentage points of one another. Saturday's contests weren't as close.
Once the polls close at 8 p.m., election results for the Baton Rouge area and Louisiana will gradually update. While we wait, here's live comm…
The current Metro Council is composed of seven White Republicans and five Black Democrats — a dynamic that's fostered several acrimonious clashes along racial and political fault lines. Next year's Metro Council will have the same racial and political makeup.
Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish selected two judges Saturday, one for the appellate court and another for the state district court.
Still, even with Saturday's results not altering the Council's demographics, voters might expect the temperature to lower on the city-parish's governing body. A broad swath of candidates this year for Metro Council expressed a desire to move beyond partisan bickering and work toward building a consensus on solutions to issues that the parish can unite behind.
Half of next year's Metro Council was decided on Nov. 3, with incumbents Denise Amoroso, Chauna Banks, Erika Green and Dwight Hudson sailing to reelection. Laurie White Adams, a Republican, will replace Matt Watson, and Rowdy Gaudet won his seat without opposition.
Adams, Amoroso, Gaudet and Hudson are Republicans; Banks and Green are Democrats.
District 1: Brandon Noel defeats Eric Lewis
The two candidates running to replace term-limited council member Trae Welch both identified regular maintenance of drainage and infrastructure assets as top priorities, and shared similar goals of bringing civility and unity to the Metro Council.
Brandon Noel, a Republican, led the first round of voting with 42% of the vote, with Eric Lewis, a Democrat, trailing closely behind with 40%. Noel won the runoff by a 54-46 margin.
The seat represents the northern third of the parish, including Zachary, Pride, Port Hudson, Chaneyville, and parts of Baker and Central.
Noel, 37, served nine years on the Zachary City Council and is a commercial lender at Landmark Bank. Noel said he'd lobby the parish to open an early voting site in Zachary, which is the only municipality without a designated early voting site.
District 12: Jen Racca defeats Tania Nyman
Jen Racca won a full term on the Metro Council after she was appointed to the position earlier this year and her contest against Tania Nyman was one of the more closely contested races on the ballot.
Racca, a Republican, led the first round of voting with 49-45, and picked up enough votes Saturday to take the seat by a 54-46 margin, according to complete but unofficial returns.
The south Baton Rouge district includes 26,000 voters across Concord Estates, Kenilworth, Mayfair, Southdowns and Valley Park, among other neighborhoods.
Racca, 40, an insurance consultant, was appointed to the seat in January after Barbara Freiberg was elected to the state House of Representatives. She previously worked as an attorney in both the Public Defender's and Parish Attorney's offices.
Racca has described herself as nonpartisan "bridge builder" and said if elected to a full term, she'd focus on economic development, infrastructure work that enhances tourism and initiatives to keep young professionals in Baton Rouge.
Nyman, 52, who previously taught English at LSU, centered her campaign on opposition to the proposed city of St. George and said she's fully supportive of the lawsuit challenging its incorporation.
District 4: Aaron Moak defeats Tenika James
The race to replace term-limited council member Scott Wilson in District 4 featured two small-business owners, both of whom are eager to tackle issues of economic development as the parish recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Aaron Moak, a Republican, defeated Tenika James, a Democrat, by a 70-30 margin. The seat represents much of Central and the eastern edge of the parish, an area that has been ravaged by flooding.
Moak, 48, is the owner of an information technology business and is serving his third term on the Central City Council. He said during his campaign that he's eager to provide oversight on the Metro Council in the dredging, widening and upgrading of Beaver and Blackwater bayous.
Moak said he believes Baton Rouge has become stagnant and said the municipality needs to do a better job attracting new businesses.
District 6: Cleve Dunn Jr. defeats Dawn Chanet Collins
Cleve Dunn Jr. defeated Dawn Chanet Collins for the District 6 seat by 62 votes out of 6,646 cast, fewer than 1%, according to complete but unofficial results.
Dunn and Collins, both Democrats with experience running other people's campaigns, faced off to replace term-limited council member Donna Collins-Lewis. Dunn had held a 25-23 lead in the primary.
The district is located entirely within the Baton Rouge city limits and extends east from North Foster Drive along Florida Boulevard to North Flannery Road. It includes the Melrose East, Broadmoor and Villa Del Rey neighborhoods.
Dunn, 44, an entrepreneur and business owner, said he ran for the Metro Council to help woman-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses gain access to city-parish contracts.
As a member and former chairman of the Airport Commission, Dunn said he helped to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, and bring in more disadvantaged businesses.
Collins, 44, a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, said she entered the race to reverse the trend of disinvestment from District 6.
District 7: LaMont Cole defeats Alfred Bell
LaMont Cole beat out friend and former supporter Alfred Bell for the District 7 seat, taking 72% of the vote in his reelection bid, according to complete but unofficial election results.
Cole had received 48% of the vote on Nov. 3 in a field of six candidates.
District 7 stretches from Interstate 10 to Evangeline Street, encompassing much of Mid City and north Baton Rouge, including the Capital Heights, Eden Park and Fairfields neighborhoods.
Cole, 48, is the chief academic officer at the charter school network CSAL Inc. and the former head of the local NAACP chapter. He was first appointed to the Metro Council in 2016 after his predecessor, C. Denise Marcelle, was elected to the state House.
In a second term, Cole said he'd focus on working with the Mayor-President's Office to create a regular schedule of maintenance for the parish's drainage infrastructure; connecting communities with law enforcement to stop violence before it occurs; and educating the public on blight remediation.
District 10: Carolyn Coleman defeats Jay Gaudet
In a race that began with seven contenders vying for Tara Wicker's District 10 seat, Carolyn Coleman defeated Jay Gaudet by a 63-37 margin.
Wicker was term-limited and ran for mayor-president but was disqualified. The seat covers much of the LSU area, Old South Baton Rouge, downtown, parts of Mid City and portions of the Southern University area.
Coleman led 27-18 in the primary.
Coleman, 65, spent her career in East Baton Rouge Parish schools, first teaching and then running the school district's program for homeless youth for 15 years.
Coleman also ran for the council in 2004 and said many of the issues facing residents then — such as blighted properties, crime and economic development — are still persistent today, a testament to what she called a lack of progress in recent years.