Mayor’s race off to slow start 

Mayoral candidates have been making the rounds, attending various community events, albeit while keeping a social distance, as they try to kickstart an otherwise lackluster campaign season.

Though Labor Day traditionally marks the start of the political season, the Baton Rouge mayor’s race is relatively quiet so far, save for the court challenge last month that ousted Tara Wicker from the contest.

That’s in part because the pandemic has made it difficult to fundraise, canvass and hold typical campaign events. It’s also because the national election and related issues are dominating the airwaves.

“It’s hard to get elbow room to get to the public because of everything going on,” says consultant Clay Young. “It’s going to be interesting to see how reduced the campaigns are from four years ago because there is just not that much money on the street.”

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has the largest campaign war chest by far and has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been the most visible of the six candidates in the race. Over the long holiday weekend, the mayor’s campaign did a phone bank. It is also soliciting donations online via Facebook and text messaging.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle has begun airing campaign spots on local TV.

Otherwise, campaign activity has been limited to grassroots activity, such as it is in the age of COVID-19.

“I know they’re out there trying to raise money,” says political pollster Bernie Pinsonat. “But the mayor had a head start on everybody and with the current political atmosphere and COVID-19, unless you have a base of businesses who have given to you before, good luck because whatever we had in February, reduce that by half.”

Pinsonat and others say voters should expect activity to pick up in late September or early October, which is when most undecided voters start paying attention to the candidates.

“The last two weeks is when the majority of people start making up their mind, so this isn’t going to be a long, long campaign with a lot of media,” he says. “Plus, the good news for the mayoral candidates is that turnout in the primary is going to be over 70% so they don’t have to spend money on getting out the vote.”