Recalling an elected official, especially those with large constituencies, is a rare and often difficult feat. But those behind the effort to oust Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker are confident they can pull it off.
Two District 10 residents, along with NAACP Baton Rouge President Byron Sharper, filed a recall petition Thursday against Wicker, who was in the spotlight last week as she cast the deciding vote for Denise Amoroso to fill her late husband’s council seat.
While some praised Wicker for the vote, others criticized her for splitting away from a group of fellow black Democrats who abstained from voting in an effort to appoint a Democrat to the majority Republican district.
In response to the petition, Wicker issued a statement late Thursday saying she’s saddened things have come to this.
“However, my passion has always been about doing what is best for the people of Baton Rouge. That means what is best for all people. People of every color,” Wicker said.
A recall election would require petitioners to gather some 6,100 signatures of the 18,300 registered voters in District 10—or about 33.3%—within 180 days of filing, says East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn.
Although these petitions are common, actually recalling an elected official is not, according to the parish registrar and the Secretary of State’s Office.
Meg Casper Sunstrom, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State, says the office receives recall petitions every few months, but not many succeed, particularly in larger voting districts that require a greater number of signatures.
“It’s designed to be to be a tough threshold,” Raborn says.
But Wicker’s critics believe they have enough support to gather the more than 6,000 signatures for a recall election, says Sharper, who filed the petition with District 10 residents Cynthia Jones and Peter Menson. Sharper, however, does not live in Wicker’s district.
“I know we’ll get it done within 180 days,” Sharper says. “It’s been something in the making for a while in Old South Baton Rouge, near McKinley and a lot of areas that she has not been representing.”
The goal is 500 signatures each weekend, Sharper says. The NAACP got involved to help residents organize the petition and gather signatures. The petition cites “lack of communication” with constituents among other reasons for the recall, and the Amoroso vote was “the boiling point,” Sharper says.
If the petitioners are successful, they may make history as the first recall in East Baton Rouge Parish, at least within the last 50 years, according to a list of recalls since 1966 on the Secretary of State’s website.
There have been successful recalls in neighbouring parishes in the past decade, though. One of the higher-profile instances was in 2013 when Port Allen voters recalled Mayor Deedy Slaughter.
The Slaughter recall, however, had some key differences. The city of Port Allen, with 4,000 registered voters at the time, needed just 1,271 signatures to hold a recall election—far fewer than the 6,000 needed for District 10 in Baton Rouge.
What’s more, the former Port Allen mayor had come under intense scrutiny and even an audit for her actions during her six-month stint, including the raise she gave herself without council approval, a trip to Washington, D.C., using public money, and a number of city employees who quit during her tenure.