(Note: This story has been updated since its original publication to include a quote from Metro Councilman Matt Watson.)
Four Metro Council members, all African-American Democrats, will collectively abstain from voting to fill late Councilman Buddy Amoroso’s District 8 vacancy next week. Their decision was announced in a terse, two-sentence press release this afternoon.
That means the seven remaining members must vote unanimously to appoint Amoroso’s successor in a district that’s overwhelmingly Republican. If they fail to reach an agreement, state law dictates the decision then goes to Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.
The four councilmembers—Chauna Banks, LaMont Cole, Erika Green and Donna Collins-Lewis—gave no reason for their decision, saying in the release, “We will make no further comment on this matter at this time.”
Councilwoman Tara Wicker, also a Democrat, was not part of the statement and does not appear to be participating in the abstention.
State law requires that a successor be appointed within 20 days of Amoroso’s passing, said Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg in a text message.
If the council fails to do so, the secretary of state will send a notice to Edwards, who then makes the appointment.
The Metro Council will meet July 18 to vote on a replacement for Amoroso, who was killed June 30 in a bicycle accident in West Feliciana Parish.
“It’s in such poor taste and so insulting and disrespectful to Amoroso and his widow,” says Metro Councilman Matt Watson of the political maneuvering of the four council members. “I am hoping it’s a farce or a prank.”
Traditionally, the family of a deceased council member selects an interim replacement for the council to consider. The last time that happened was in the early 2000s when District 6 Councilman M.A. “Mike” Tassin died while in office and his wife, Martha Jane, was appointed to fill his seat. She went on to run for the seat and was elected to serve two terms.
While the four council members are refusing to discuss their decision, a tweet from Chauna Banks this morning indicated her preference.
“Choosing a progressive Democrat to fill the vacant District 8 council seat would be a tremendous blow to the St. George effort!” the councilwoman said on her Twitter account.
In truth, whoever fills the vacancy will have little say in the St. George incorporation effort, especially with the petition process well underway.
Prior to Amoroso’s passing, the council was made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats. Should a Democrat be named, the council would be split 6-6 by party, though the result is increased power by Democrats.