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Dynamics of 2006 Shreveport mayor's race prove interesting

With qualifying a bit over a year away, the Shreveport Times decided to run a couple of articles about the 2006 mayor’s race. Fair enough; let’s see where in general things stand even though, as always, very much will change in the ensuing year.

Two things make for some special dynamics in this contest. First, it will be an open seat given the two-term limitation on present Mayor Keith Hightower. Second, the city is on the cusp of electorally becoming a majority-black city. Its population currently has a black plurality, but because black voter registration lags that of whites, a white plurality still exists – but now below 50 percent for the first time in recorded history.

Even more fascinating, doing a statistical study of trends in registration shows that, at current rates, the number of registered blacks in Caddo will exceed that of whites at the end of June, 2006 – about three months before the election. To make matters still more interesting, we can predict the same turnout gap will persist as we saw in the 2002 city races, 2.4 percent more whites than blacks. This translates into predicted excess of whites rather than blacks voting at about 1,288.

And to make matters downright compelling, a 1994 study I did of the mayor’s race runoff showed about 7 percent of blacks voted for the white Republican candidate while about 14 percent of whites voted for the black Democrat. Translated into 2006 projections, this means that in this kind of runoff the black Democrat starts with a 1,766 vote advantage, or 4.4 percent. (Analysis also shows that the least-mobilized group, “other race,” breaks slightly to a black Democrat as well.)

So the first rule of the contest is this: any black Democrat who can get through the blanket primary up against a white Republican stands a pretty good chance of winning, given this spread. Thus, the second rule becomes, if you are a white Republican, your chances are best by having another white Republican in a runoff. (Chances are a white Democrat would capture more white voters who might have voted for a white Republican than they would lose in terms of black voters switching to the Republican or discouraged and not voting without a black candidate, so that won’t work for this hypothetical Republican, but I need to look at this more closely.)

Is this latter scenario possible? It could happen only if black Democrats flooded the field and divvied up potential black votes in the primary. But, at this point, this looks unlikely, with just two names that could be considered big, state Rep. Cedric Glover and television station manager Ed Bradley, having indicated there is a good chance they will run. This means, among interested Republican candidates with any realistic chance of winning, only term-limited current officeholders would have great incentive to take a stab – state Sen. Max Malone and Shreveport City Councilman Thomas Carmody.

But it also leaves a strong Republican candidate such as Councilman Mike Gibson in a quandary. The numbers demographically only will get worse for white Republicans, yet to give up what seems to be a safe council seat for a very uncertain foray to capture the mayor’s office entails quite a risk. And there are other dynamics as well (the effects of minor candidates and white Democrats) which can be explored in a future posting.

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