Onlookers got a glimpse into the gaping chasm dividing Baton Rouge at Thursday evening’s Metro Council meeting, where the council appointed the late Buddy Amoroso’s wife Denise to serve in his absence for the next nine months.
The decision came after nearly two weeks of infighting among council members over whether Denise Amoroso should be selected to fill the empty seat, and the debate became a hot button for a deeper issue on the council: whether black people are fairly represented.
The majority of those who spoke out against her appointment at the meeting said it was time for the council to stop following the tradition of giving preference to spouses to fill seats when one of its members dies and instead take the somber opportunity that came with Buddy Amoroso’s passing to allow for more racial diversity. Others viewed such opposition to her appointment as an insensitive, political power play by the four Democrats leading the charge.
The meeting took hours as public commenters expressed pent up frustrations about black representation on the council and the question of who should fill an empty seat.
In the end, Denise Amoroso received six votes from Republicans and one from Democrat Tara Wicker, who was called “Judas” by fellow Councilwoman Chauna Banks after going against fellow Democrats’ plans to abstain from voting. Three Democrat council members did not vote and Erika Green was not at the meeting.
Wicker had said prior to the meeting that she thought the council should honor tradition and appoint Denise Amoroso to represent District 8.
Buddy Amoroso, a Republican, was killed in late June when he and another bike rider were struck by a motorist in West Feliciana Parish.