Mayoral forum

Top East Baton Rouge mayor-president candidates gathered for a forum on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Defense wins championships, a rule for incumbent politicians as well as coaches.

By that standard, Sharon Weston Broome had a good debate when facing her major challengers Tuesday.

Seeking a second term as mayor-president, Broome faced challengers of both parties in a forum presented by The Advocate and Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

Coulda, shoulda, better — that is the mantra of all challengers. Few really laid a glove on Broome, and she pushed back against criticisms, such as that the city-parish is cleaning out ditches now because it’s an election year.

If you’re looking for a positive message overall, it is that the array of candidates, state representatives current (C. Denise Marcelle) and former (Steve Carter), a councilmember (Matt Watson), a businessman (Jordan Piazza) and a lawyer (E. Eric Guirard), were often focused on themes of unity, important given the sharp racial divisions in East Baton Rouge Parish, and the threat of a breakaway “city” of St. George in the largely white southern part of the parish.

Overshadowing all, though, are the dramatic lockdowns, deaths and dislocations of the coronavirus pandemic. Cries for boldness and creativity might not resonate in a year in which public health disaster dominates the news. Challengers' common theme, despite Broome’s bombastic self-description of herself as a “transformative leader,” was that she isn’t and the others believe he or she would be. The charge is she is not dynamic, but that is not necessarily a winning message against an incumbent.

So if Broome had a good debate, is she on the way toward the 52% win of 2016’s runoff, facing a white challenger then? The splintered field this year seeks a runoff a month after the Nov. 3 primary election. With campaigning sharply limited by lockdowns and particularly the fear of older, chronic voters of going to rallies or events, the parish might well divide along traditional political — which means, racial — lines in November or December.

If that helps the incumbent, it’s Broome’s fate to face the voters in a year in which thousands are unemployed and hard times stalk too many households to count. Those usually aren’t good conditions for the defense.

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