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Shreveport history possible, Fleming repeat probable

Qualifying for fall election contests brought some interesting races, which may produce historical events for Shreveport.

This space has reviewed the mayor’s contest and when the dust had settled nothing had changed about its dynamics. More than ever it is turning into a referendum on incumbent Cedric Glover and the question is whether controversial actions by Glover can blunt his reelection machinery and also the impulse locally for monoracial voting, particularly in the black community to vote for black candidates when matched against whites.

But history has a chance to be made regarding the City Council. Some of it takes the form of a rerun of it in District A that also distinguishes itself from most of the other contests in that it has no clear frontrunner. There, of its four candidates, current Commissioner Rose Wilson McCullough (the daughter of longtime fixture there Hersey Wilson, the first black elected to the then-Police Jury), former Caddo Parish Commissioner Michael Williams (protégé of the first black female elected to the then-Police Jury, Eddie Jones), and Dr. C.O. Simpkins (himself history, having been the first black candidate for a school board set in Louisiana in the twentieth century in 1952, a leading civil rights activist driven from town, then returning to make the mayoral runoff in 1990) match up among themselves, one of whom likely will win.

The other closely competitive race of these, however, is the one where new history may emerge. In District B, it looks to be a contest between attorney Sheva Sims and former Sen. Mary Landrieu operative Jeff Everson, both Democrats. The winner, given the dynamics of likely triumphs in the other races, will continue a Democrat majority on the Council, but if Sims wins, it also would create the first majority black Council.

District B almost a decade ago was designed to be a racial swing district. Barely having a registered white plurality in 2002, white Democrat term-limited incumbent Monty Walford narrowly won among a black Democrat and white Republican candidate, and was reelected in 2006 by only six votes over Sims in the by-then majority registered black plurality district. Now, an absolute majority of blacks registered in the district makes Sims the clear frontrunner.

Everson, who seems to be looking to duplicate current District E Councilman, now mayoral candidate, Bryan Wooley’s precocious win of four years past against more experienced politicians, has a harder task than Wooley then because of these numbers yet whose biggest ally to overcome them may be Sims herself. Her post-2006 quixotic political career most prominently includes her brief tenure as head of the now-defunct Shreveport YWCA board, during which she led to board to provoke a crisis with the city over program operations that led to the end of contracting with it that helped starve the organization into disbanding.

That event may make some think twice about supporting her, and Everson maybe the best alternative. Political unknown Deborah Allen is not expected to gain much traction, and Craig Lee has a reputation as a crank who interjects race and class into almost any political and social controversy imaginable.

Finally, the area’s race for Congress might turn interesting, where minister David Melville is the Democrat nominee. For years, Melville was well-connected in the community as an administrator with Shreveport’s First United Methodist Church (besides being politically-connected partly as a result of being married into the Roemer clan), but felt a calling to more actively serve his faith. Now a pastor, he continues the tradition of conservative Democrats vying for the Fourth District seat.

Republican incumbent Dr. John Fleming ever since he began what was then a longshot quest for the office in 2008 has been criticized by some for being too plainspoken. Fleming clearly recognizes the battle of ideas that is part of his job and is not shy in contrasting publicly and by his actions as a representative his conservatism with the liberal ethos that soon appears to be on its way out in the House after just four years.

But what Melville considers to be a weakness also serves as Fleming’s strength. With a perfect 100 score on the American Conservative Union’s 2009 voting scorecard, joining just a handful of members with that in the House, Fleming solidly is in line with a majority of voters in his district. Melville’s task of trying to convince the public that despite his label he’s conservative enough but who would appear kinder and gentler than Fleming in style is made more difficult by the toxic electoral environment in the district to national Democrats and that the Rev. Artis Cash, an even bigger crank on race and class than Lee, qualified to run for the general election and will take some black votes from the Democrat nominee. Fleming, with almost a half million dollars sitting idle (about seven times Melville’s stash) and the ability to lend himself more in a pinch, is a clear favorite for reelection.

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