BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Three of the four Republicans running to become mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish took questions on a variety of topics Tuesday at the monthly Ronald Reagan luncheon.
Metro Councilman John Delgado, state Sen. Bodi White, and businessman Smokie Bourgeois seemed to agree on most topics. The candidates differed somewhat in their opinions of the failed attempt of some in the parish to break off from Baton Rouge and form the City of St. George, complete with its own school district.
Delgado said that he has always been opposed to the St. George movement because it's a "bad idea" and would cripple the city of Baton Rouge financially.
White said that he has met with key players of the movement and he believes they will give him "some time" to work of the schools in the parish before making any major moves. Bourgeois said he doesn't really care either way.
All three agreed that if proponents gather enough signatures legally, and follow the process again, the issue should go before the voters.
Education, traffic and crime were the other big topics.
"Well, of course the big three: crime, traffic and the school system. The school system, like I said, the mayor doesn't really have any sway over it," Bourgeois said. "There's so many, but the roads, and the crime, that's the two big ones."
Delgado said he would like to add 200 new police officers to the current force.
"Priorities need to be shifted to make sure that our first priority is public safety," he said. "There's a lot of spending that goes on in the city-parish budget and when you really look at it, there's a lot of stuff that we don't need. But, we definitely need to be safe and pay our officers that we need to protect us."
White stressed that education is the key, pointing out that the parish is losing young couple because they cannot afford to send their children to private schools and often times public schools are failing.
White also touched on the recent uprisings in Baton Rouge where people have protested the killing of Alton Sterling at the hands of a white Baton Rouge police officer.
"I think early on we have to tackle healing this parish," he said. "I think with the people in this parish, we can do it ourselves. I don't think we need a lot of outside people. I think with our clergy both in the city and out of the city - and the people are really starting to work together. We understand we have to fix this. We can't go forward as a parish and a city unless we fix those relationships."
Twelve people have qualified in the November contest that is ultimately expected to be decided in a December runoff election.