|The battle between 'Smokie' Bourgeois and John Delgado for a Metro Council seat is being closely watched.|
While the mayor's race isn't turning out to be terribly exciting or full of surprises, the Metro Council races are proving even less riveting. Six of the 12 seats are already filled—because either the incumbent or the replacement for the term-limited incumbent was unopposed. Even in those districts where incumbents do face challengers, the current office holders are strongly favored.
One exception is the District 12 race, which pits one of the more colorful council members, R.J. “Smokie” Bourgeois, against political newcomer John Delgado, a local attorney.
It's an interesting race for a couple of reasons. For one thing, whoever wins could tip the balance on a council that is sharply and evenly divided between African-American Democrats and conservative white Republicans. For another, the race is a good indicator of how the parishwide race for mayor-president will go. Because of its mix of academics, young families and professionals, District 12 is full of swing voters. Which way they decide to go in the mayor's race could end up being the difference between a Holden victory in the primary and a runoff.
“Delgado-Bourgeois is the bellwether race,” says political consultant George Kennedy. “They can swing an election in this kind of parish.”
Geographically, District 12 includes a large swath of south Baton Rouge, running roughly from Interstate 10 down to Burbank and east from the LSU campus to Bluebonnet. It is comprised of neighborhoods like University Gardens, Southdowns and Whitehaven, and includes a mix of affluent and middle class voters who tend to be well educated, fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
“They're white, upper middle class,” says Kennedy. “But they're also bohemian.”
It's unclear which way they will go in the Metro Council race, and it could be a nail biter come Nov. 6. Bourgeois, a Republican who has represented the district for the past four years, appeals to a segment of his constituency because of his shoot-from-the-hip, unpredictable style. He says the kind of things people are thinking, whether factually or politically correct. It's a trait voters find refreshing.
Delgado, also a Republican, is positioning himself as a fresh, progressive voice for a district that has a lot of young people. They're the kind of voters who believe in uniting, not dividing, Baton Rouge, and who support issues like public transportation and downtown libraries.
“I've heard Delgado is very supportive of moving the city forward and is very open-minded,” says District 10 Councilwoman Tara Wicker. “At the same time, Smokie has some solid supporters who believe he is best for the job. It will be very interesting in how that plays out.”
Perhaps more interesting will be which way the district goes in the mayoral race. Twice before it has supported Holden, and analysts believe it likely will again. But Walker has a shot, especially if the two minor candidates—Gordon Mese and Steve Myers—are able to siphon off enough of his votes to force him into a runoff. Mese lives in the Garden District, adjacent to District 12, and Myers lives in the district; both are picking up grassroots support from those parts of the parish.
“The key to this race is what Mike does south of the LSU campus,” says political consultant Roy Fletcher, who is producing Walker's campaign ads. “That is the group of white voters who elected Kip mayor the first time.”
In the final weeks of the campaign, Walker will be concentrating on that area, and focusing his message, because it's an area in play.
“We still have some time, and we're going to make a case to that area,” Fletcher says. “When the time comes, we're going to do exactly what we need to do there to get into a runoff for sure.”
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