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Gibson's exit clarifies little Shreveport mayoral politics

So former City Councilman Mike Gibson has ridden off into the sunset, leaving a host of questions now and for next year in city politics.
Gibson was considered a leading contender for the mayor’s job in 2006, but a promotion to that office looked less appealing to him than a kind of promotion in his day job out of state. His sudden departure has ramifications for the present composition of the Council, its future composition, and the contest for the city’s top spot.
Gibson’s absence represents a big opportunity for Mayor Keith Hightower. Gibson probably was the biggest thorn in Hightower’s side, repeatedly questioning the spending priorities of Hightower. He could be counted upon for a sure vote against these matters where Hightower generally had four votes. While this still enabled Hightower to get things passed, he had no margin for error.
But with Gibson gone, there’s basically no chance that any interim councilman would be any more hostile to Hightower’s agenda than the guy being replaced, at the worst. At the best, for the next several months and perhaps until the end of his term, Hightower could have a solid ally.
In any event, likely the narrow Democrat majority will be refreshed as the Council gets to select its own replacement and it seems unlikely they would let this go even if District D leaned Republican in Gibson’s victory and trends have accelerated in that direction since. To pick a Republican for the interim would probably remove any chance of a Democrat picking up the seat in 2006, given an incumbency advantage that can be accrued.
This person will end up serving until the end of 2006. This year-plus of incumbency may create enough of a margin for a Democrat to survive in the regular election so Council Democrats would maximize their chances of holding the seat by picking as high-profile and uncontroversial a candidate as possible. This might mean Gard Wayt would be their choice, who has garnered good name recognition by heading up the Interstate 49 International Coalition.
This dynamic may eliminate from consideration another choice, former seat-holder Republican Phil Serio. While he argues that he would not seek the seat full-time, this could be a positioning to make a run for the mayor’s office. Even if he is an ally of Hightower’s, he’s unlikely to get the chance by getting the seat from what would be a long-shot candidacy in any event.
Yet the greatest long-term impact of Gibson’s departure undoubtedly will hit the mayor’s contest. Whether Gibson would have given up a safe seat now is moot, but this certainly increases the chances of two term-limited Republican politicians, state Sen. Max Malone and City Councilman Thomas Carmody. The dynamics of the contest suggest the general election will involve a black Democrat and white Republican so without Gibson as competition, this puts each of these guys one step closer to that result.
At the same time, it all but finishes the chances of City Councilman Monty Walford. As a white Democrat, Walford actually would have the best chance of winning against anybody in the general election, but with most whites voting Republican and blacks almost all for a black Democrat of the stature of state Rep. Cedric Glover and television executive Ed Bradley, too few voters are out there for Walford unless he could split both voting blocs. With Gibson definitely out, the splitting of the vote on both sides is not enough for Walford.
Unfortunately for Walford, his problems even in retaining his own seat are not much less severe. District B continues to pile up a black majority so any black running will have an edge on Walford. Where before Gibson’s exit Walford’s best bet might have been to seek the mayor’s office, now he might find the odds better to battle to stay in his seat.
The same dynamic in Walford’s district is being replicated city-wide and may have had a hand in Gibson’s deciding to leave the area. With the black population continuing to gain proportionally, white politicians’ chances for the top spot decrease in tandem. From Gibson’s perspective, taking leave from running a contractors’ association in a mid-sized city to be mayor might have been enough to offer having no current political career but leading the association in a smaller state. But with the chances of the former appear dimmer and dimmer for any white Republican in Shreveport, he may have been willing to forgo politics for greater career opportunities.

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