Sharon Weston Broome fell just short of winning reelection as East Baton Rouge mayor-president on Tuesday and instead will face former state Rep. Steve Carter in a runoff Dec. 5.
Broome had 48% of the vote, according to complete but unofficial returns. Carter led all other challengers with just under 20% and advanced to the Dec. 5 winner-take-all contest.
A Broome/Carter runoff is one that local political pundits predicted early on after Carter's surprise entry into the race for mayor-president. They expected that it would be difficult for Broome to win outright since she had six challengers.
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Broome, the city-parish's first Black female mayor, ran well throughout much of the city and parish. Across the 329 precincts, she won more than 50% of the vote in 151.
In addition to winning many parts of Baton Rouge, she also picked up considerable support in Baker and elsewhere on the Plank Road corridor and also in Gardere and Mayfair. She fared worst in the Central area, picking up fewer than 10% of the votes in several precincts.
She said in a speech to supporters Tuesday night that it was important for her to be leader for the entire parish, which has been divided at times by race and socioeconomic status. She promised to leave no segment of the population left behind if reelected.
"Over the next four weeks, we will work just hard to show the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish our best days are ahead. I look forward to sharing my vision for the future with all of you," she said.
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Political analysts had said they expected Carter would have a strong showing in the primaries given his name recognition, ties to LSU and record in the state Legislature.
Carter fared best in the south half of the parish, notably areas along Highland and Perkins roads and in and around Shenandoah. At the opposite end, there were 123 precincts where he received less than 10% of the vote, and he had no votes at all in 11 precincts.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s election, Carter ran ads appealing to the parish’s more right-wing conservatives. It was a move that seemed designed to reach voters in Central, Zachary and southeast East Baton Rouge, areas he’ll need for his head-to-head match with Broome, who is expected to maintain strong support within the Black community.
Up for grabs are the parish's moderate White voters, many of whom reside in Carter’s former legislative district. Broome won a lot of their support in 2016.
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"We're looking forward and are going to hit the ground running tomorrow," Carter said Tuesday night, discussing how he hopes to defeat Broome. "She's the incumbent who didn't get 50% of the vote. That means half the people in the parish aren't satisfied in the direction we're going."
In polling released by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber last month, Carter was neck-to-neck with Metro Councilman Matt Watson, a fellow Republican, for the second spot in the runoff. But Watson fell short Tuesday with 13% of the vote.
Broome’s other challengers were local businessman and political novice Jordan Piazza and newcomer Frank Smith, both Republicans; Baton Rouge attorney E Eric Guirard, an Independent; and state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, a Democrat.
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On the campaign trail, Carter said he wanted to “implode” city-parish government in a top-to-bottom restructuring that might include replacing Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul.
Carter has touted himself as a “commonsense” leader focused on crime prevention, job creation and improved city-parish operations.
In the runup to Tuesday's election, Carter was a distant second to Broome in campaign spending and fundraising. Broome spent more than $200,000, compared to $96,000 by Carter.
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Broome built her reelection campaign on continuing what she called “transformative” initiatives from her first term. Those included strengthening the city-parish’s drainage system, improving traffic through her $1 billion roads project and completing the Stormwater Master Plan that her administration says will guide all future flood-control projects.
She also promised pay raises for the police, firefighters, EMS workers and city-parish public works employees.
Broome also vowed to bridge the gap between the city’s police department and community and to create more high-paying jobs in the parish through small business growth over the next four years.
She said Tuesday night there was a clear difference between her and Carter.
"Mr. Carter wants to divide our parish and turn the back the clock on progress we made. His grand plan is to take money from BREC, the libraries and MovEBR. That’s not a plan. That’s a money grab. Not the way we should govern," she said.
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Carter said he had a positive message for voters unhappy with the mayor's performance.
"My campaign is not a negative one. I want to stand on my record in the Legislature," he said. "I did a good job on education and transportation issues, and bringing people together. I want to run a positive campaign, standing on the message we have to improve our city."
Piazza, co-owner of Uncle Earl’s Bar on Perkins Road, made a noticeable splash in his first political campaign.
The young newcomer didn’t have the name recognition needed to garner big donations, but he loaned his campaign significant amounts of cash and spent roughly $90,000 since June on political ads to get his name before voters.
Piazza made appeals to the parish’s young professionals, building a campaign on issues that included loosening coronavirus restrictions, hiring more police officers and giving police a significant pay boost.
He garnered the support of the parish’s Republican Party, which traditionally has shied away from choosing among Republican candidates in a primary election.