State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle ended weeks of speculation Tuesday, with the official announcement she has decided to enter the Baton Rouge mayor’s race.
Marcelle becomes the fourth hopeful to announce a challenge to incumbent Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, who, early in the pandemic, looked as though she might escape a run for a second term with as few as one or two challengers.
In recent weeks, however, Metro Council members Matt Watson and Tara Wicker have thrown their hats in the ring, as has businessman Jordan Piazza.
The race is shaping up along familiar racial and demographic lines in East Baton Rouge Parish, with three Black, Democratic women and two white Republican men.
Consultant Clay Young says those factors increase the likelihood that Broome, though still favored in the race, will face a tougher road to reelection.
“Because of the number of African American candidates in the race, it definitely will have an impact on where the votes go,” Young says. “It will make fundraising and voter interaction a lot more interesting.”
Marcelle, who served on the Metro Council before being elected to the Legislature, says her platform is focused on improving traffic and infrastructure—particularly in underserved neighborhoods—creating economic opportunities and stemming the tide of violent crime that has intensified of late.
Marcelle says she is particularly concerned about impromptu street parties, like the gathering on Plank Road over the weekend that resulted in a mass shooting that wounded seven and killed a 25-year-old man.
“We as leaders need to stand and give our police some cover,” she says. “I support Black Lives Matter. We stand together when the police shoot one of us. But we need to stand together when we shoot one of our own and do something about it.”
On the issue of the prospective city of St. George, Marcelle says she doesn’t support the separate city but respects that the future of the incorporation is in the hands of the court.
“It has never been my intention to make Baton Rouge a Black city,” she says. “I think it’s better when we work together, Black, white, Latino. I don’t think there should be a white city, Black city. I don’t believe that at all.”
Marcelle’s entry into the race increases the likelihood of a December runoff, Young says.
“I’ve always thought there was going to be a runoff,” he says. “It’s just going to be a lot more interesting now.”