BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As candidates begin to officially qualify for the East Baton Rouge Mayor's race, recent tensions in the parish are shaping the overall tenor of the campaign.
Seven candidates officially signed the paperwork Wednesday at City Hall to appear on the ballot this fall. Another completed qualifying Thursday morning. More could add on before the end of the week.
On Thursday, July 21, Smokie Bourgeois officially threw his name in that hat for mayor as well, bringing the total to eight candidates.
The contenders to replace Mayor Kip Holden stressed similar, familiar themes. That includes ending traffic congestion in the parish and reducing crime. Some candidates stressed their ability to work together.
"I've always been able to work across lines, I've always been able to put delegations together, I've always been able to put plans together," said Sen. 'Bodi' White, R-Baton Rouge.
However, the recent swell of frustration and tension in the capital city, punctuated by tragedy, was top of mind, with candidates calling for efforts to unify the divided parish. Former EBR Metro Councilmember Byron Sharper called for bringing people together through conversations.
"We hear the issues of North Baton Rouge and South Baton Rouge. We want to bridge that gap, we actually want to be a bridge over troubled waters," Sharper said.
Councilmember John Delgado echoed calls for open dialogue.
"I've always been someone who can reach out not just to Republican party or Democratic party, not just to whites or blacks, not to North or South Baton Rouge, but the entire community," Delgado.
Darryl Gissel said being politically unaffiliated should allow him to work together with people of all backgrounds.
"You can't have parts of the community that feel uncomfortable with law enforcement and you can't have law enforcement feeling uncomfortable about going into communities. That just really has to stop," Gissel said.
Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, who touted her ability bring people together, called for changes to police department policies. Former state senator Sharon Weston Broome, meanwhile, advocated for a renewed focus on community policing.
"I believe that my leadership as a collaborator, as a unifier, as a woman of purpose and peace is the kind of leader that we need right now to move Baton Rouge forward," Broome said.
The seventh candidate who qualified Wednesday, 'BJ' Amador, said his main focus is on helping the poor. The list of candidates could grow longer. Qualifying continues through Friday. For a full list of all candidates who have qualified for all races in the state, click here.