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NW LA state seat up for grabs, for U.S. seat developing

The fun started when U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery announced his retirement at the end of 2008 but what really set things in motion was when then-state Rep. Mike Powell not only passed on this race, but also on his own seat. The resulting chaos points to 2008 being an interesting year for political watchers in northwest Louisiana.

Powell had long been considered one of the front runners for the Fourth District slot and his state post was as secure as could be, witnessed by only him qualifying for it last September. But by the end of the year he had resigned it and begged out completely, citing the need to feed the various mouths of his large family.

This has perturbed some who wondered why Powell simply didn’t run for reelection, arguing that the need to concentrate on a full-time career wasn’t one that appears suddenly, which would not have required the special election this Saturday for his seat. Regardless whether Powell is in office he has built a substantial political organization in east Shreveport and the efficiency for it to elect preferred candidates is maximized by controlling the timing of the election to replace him.

That candidate may be former city councilman Republican Thomas Carmody who many of Powell’s supporters backed in his two successful runs for the Council finishing his service there in 2006. That candidate probably is not Republican Barrow Peacock, who ran against Powell in 2003 and who just finished up a try for the state senate seat in this district.

Success in this election is crucial for Peacock, now making his third attempt for the state legislature in slightly more than four years. When somebody makes a couple of spirited if unsuccessful attempts for office, he’s often seen as persistent and eager to serve. But strike out three times and for subsequent attempts he’s often viewed as a crank who won’t give up even as the people’s verdict is clear.

While Peacock almost doubled his proportion of the vote in 2007 over 2003, the fact is he missed the general election runoff both times running campaigns that were a mile wide and an inch deep – leading one to wonder whether he has a license to print money as his largely self-financed, expensive campaigns both times have revealed not much support from the activist base of the Republican Party. And he did himself no favors last fall with this group by refusing to back publicly genuine conservative Republican B.L. “Buddy” Shaw in the Senate runoff against ex-Democrat state Rep. Billy Montgomery (especially as it is Montgomery donated to Carmody's campaign).

Peacock will benefit from his recent joust as the name recognition garnered from it will carry over into this contest barely three months removed from the last. But the dynamics differ dramatically in this special election held concurrently with presidential preference primaries because the lower turnout will make activists disproportionately more important – and they probably will favor Carmody.

Carmody by the end of his career was known as the most fiscally conservative member of Shreveport’s City Council and won convincingly two terms, but his exposure is limited in the Bossier Parish part of the district where about 15 percent of its registered voters live and a month is a short period of time to raise enough money to remind voters who you are. Still, unless there’s an unusually high turnout, Carmody should win.

While Saturday will settle that race, the fate of McCrery’s job now really lies in the hands of one individual. With Powell out, one prohibitive favorite has emerged who either preordains the matter by his announcement that he’s in, or leaves a wide-open field with his deferral.

If Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator wants the job, it’s his. Prator has been the most popular politician in the region given his almost-uncontested elections for the office and good reputation in discharging its duties. The only reason Prator might pass would be winning would remove his status as the closest thing the parish has to a chief executive in order to become one of the lowliest of 435 legislators. Having been a chief executive for over a decade in a small pond, being a (relatively) small fish in a bigger pond may not seem too attractive.

But heavy pressure is being brought to bear on him to make this transition by local Republicans because he’ll guarantee the party retains the seat. If he doesn’t run, all bets are off as to who could triumph, and possible victors would include Democrat former mayor of Shreveport Keith Hightower, likely the only of his party that could win. Prator will have to decide soon because if he does opt out, Republican candidates who are waiting on him (although one has started regardless) need to get campaigning as soon as possible to counter a likely Hightower bid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've said if before, but Steve Prator running is a bad idea. Sure, the folks here in Caddo think they like him. But when he gets introduced to the rest of the congressional district, well, his squeaky clean record won't stand up under the scrutiny.

His office is out of touch and so is he. Why? Because he acts like a chief executive. Even as a staunch Republican, I cannot and will not ever vote for a person with as many hidden issues as he has. I just hope the powers that be do a little digging before this hope turns into nothing but hype.