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Going negative helps, hurts Shreveport mayoral hopefuls

There’s not been much negativity in the Shreveport mayor’s contest to date. That well may change in the closing days of the contest, but certain candidates will do better than others from it – if they pick the correct targets to demonize.

Polling consistently has shown that Republican former city attorney Jerry Jones essentially has secured a place in the general election runoff Nov. 7. Other Republican candidates that have the potential to do well, state Sen. Max Malone and former city economic developer Arlena Acree, might be tempted to sling some mud his way to capture some of his intended voters.

However, the problem is that while negative campaigning, or pointing out other candidates’ faults real or imagined, often is effective, all it can do is dislodge some votes from candidates and cannot guarantee that these freed votes will go to the one doing this campaigning. In other words, if Acree goes negative on Jones, she might be sending votes Malone’s way, and vice versa. To compound their difficulty, Jones has such a lead on the rest of the field at this point that he still probably has more than enough support to make the runoff despite any barrage of negative campaigning.

By contrast, former city spokeswoman and Democrat Liz Swaine has almost the opposite problem. Given her name recognition that produced benign feelings about her prior to the contest, her best strategy would have been to run a campaign as issueless as possible. Instead, by design or accident, she foolishly allowed her opponents to put her into the position of defending her employer Democrat Mayor Keith Hightower who in the past four years has made a number of decisions not well-received in Shreveport. Negative attacks on her only will compound her sinking status.

Worse for her, she has little to gain by adopting that strategy. For one thing, it would further erode the good feelings about her which has kept her as a viable candidate. Also, she has no good target on which to unleash an attack that would benefit her. Since Jones also holds a big lead over her she would waste resources attacking him. And she rests in a position where she cannot really attack the opponents closest to her that she must in order to get into a runoff with Jones, Democrats state Rep. Cedric Glover and former television executive Ed Bradley. This is because she is unlikely to peel off members of their mainly-black base; instead, successful attacks on her part would send Glover voters to Bradley and vice versa, with few coming her way.

In reality, only Jones, Bradley, and Glover would benefit from a negative strategy. Jones could cement his chances of a runoff against a black Democrat by going after Swaine (but he really doesn’t need to do this, given his current position and Swaine’s decline), while Glover attacks on Bradley would pull the latter’s voters to him, and vice versa. So in these final few campaign days, look for a spirited skirmish across media that disproportionately attracts a black audience to see which black Democrat can pull himself into a runoff with Jones.

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