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Landrieu win may ripple across state to Shreveport

The delayed New Orleans mayor’s contest may well have an impact that ripples all the way up to Northwest Louisiana, ultimately impacting who the next mayor of Shreveport will be.

The favorite for New Orleans’ top job is Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. Louisiana’s senior senator’s brother will win if he can take a significant amount of the black vote from incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin and split the white vote among Audubon Nature Institute head Ron Forman and former city councilor Peggy Wilson. A reduced black majority in the city would allow Landrieu to win with most of the white vote in a general election runoff with Nagin.

Landrieu winning would have him assuming office at the end of May. And then the Louisiana Constitution would kick in concerning a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office. Essentially, Gov. Kathleen Blanco would pick a successor, without any specified timetable, and the choice gets presented to the Legislature for confirmation.

Blanco should want to act fast. It would be nice to have a choice ready to go and voted on by the Legislature before it adjourned about Jun. 20. But more to the political point, Blanco would have a natural deadline of Sep. 30, because this is the day the Secretary of State would be elected which well could be a Republican. That person (if elected) is next in line if the state lacks a lieutenant governor to becoming governor. Even if a recall petition does not succeed in removing Blanco and she remains in office, whenever a governor leaves the state the next in line becomes acting governor with similar powers.

However, as much as she would not want a Republican breathing down her neck, neither does she want to appoint somebody who could become a rival to her in 2007, using a free ride into the state’s number two office as a springboard. It would have to be somebody who would be happy to try for a full term in 2007, who would be competitive, and who would not turn into a political opponent of Blanco’s as she will need all the help she can get in her own reelection bid.

Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower well may fit this bill. Obviously a Democrat like Blanco, he’ll be out of office in about seven months, has plenty of campaign money to start a 2007 attempt, and would have the right attitude from Blanco’s perspective. The office has less power than any other statewide so Hightower would be viewed by other Democrats as a non-threatening placeholder with a decent chance of retaining it in 2007.

Should this happen, Shreveport would need a new mayor for four or five months. The city charter defers vacancies in the office to the state’s jurisprudence – the governor would appoint someone within ten days of vacancy unless the “governing authority” of the jurisdiction appoints somebody. In Shreveport, that would fall to the City Council.

This would introduce the Byzantine politics of the upcoming mayor’s race into the decision. Even a trial of a few months on the job could give somebody a leg up on the contest. Keeping in mind that, given current demographics, any black Democrat who reaches the general election is likely to win, unless encountering a white Democrat there, and the current council is comprised of three black Democrats, two white Democrats, and two white Republicans.

One intriguing scenario is that Democrats may kick current councilor Monty Walford upstairs. His reelection chances in a district that probably will be majority black in the fall are spotty and he may fancy he can do what Hightower did and bring together enough white and black voters to win the mayor’s race, given a boost of a trial run. Black Democrats on the Council would do this only if they felt confident a Republican could keep Walford out of the general election runoff; their goal would be to get Walford out of his District B seat to pave the way for a black winning there (and they could anoint a successor as Walford’s replacement).

Another is one of the two major anticipated black candidates for the mayor’s job, state Rep. Cedric Glover, would be appointed. His main competition would be the other such candidate, former television executive Ed Bradley. A few months on the job for Glover, who appears to be a more natural ally to the existing black council members, could only aid his full-term chances at Bradley’s expense.

Or who knows? Regardless, what New Orleans voters do in the spring could shape Shreveport politics in the fall.

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