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Bradley: serious or hypocritical Shreveport mayor candidate?

It appears that five months prior to Shreveport mayoral elections, the race card is being played in a decidedly ugly fashion by supporters of the only announced black Democrat in the contest.

Here’s an example of a flier going around town, and at least one supporter of television executive Ed Bradley admits to passing them around. Baruti Ajanaku (you can see where he’s coming from in his comments to the Shreveport City Council in 2002 over redistricting) claims he found a stack of them at the Pete Harris CafĂ© and liked them, so he started passing them out. Ajanaku has benefited monetarily from the Bradley campaign, for what he says was buying copies of his musical CD.

The flier essentially berates by name black politicians and activists who dare to show anything other than opposition to announced white Republican candidates for mayor, because to do so it implies means you cannot genuinely be “black” or be for black interests. A paid advertisement in the Shreveport Sun that ran recently also largely mimics the flier’s attitude and naming of names. Without these individuals specifically committing themselves and thus recommending to their supporters they may influence to the cause of a black candidate, these media essentially try to pressure them into acting like mind-numbed robots not permitted to use their intellects and judgments to make their best choice for a mayoral endorsement, or even not to allow them to associate with members of the political spectrum with whom they may or may not agree and/or support.

Naturally, this argument is idiocy at the highest level. Conservative policies promoted by the GOP have done and promise to do more for blacks, other ethnic minorities – and to be most precise, just people in general – in all areas of policy such as economic advancement, education, and freedom to worship, among others. Democrats, often black politicians themselves, generally have left a trail of broken promises to the black community and care about the community only insofar as it gets them votes to stay in power, which they manipulate to do this by using on it scare tactics totally divorced from logic and the real world. (And, of course, it was white Democrats who kept blacks in political servitude in the South for many decades.)

But, more disturbing is the attitude the Bradley campaign has taken concerning the flier. To date, Bradley’s campaign has done everything possible to downplay anything having to do with race. From a review of his campaign website you could not tell whether he is a Democrat, and without any pictures whether he is black (although there are pictures of him with prominent white supporters, as well as testimonials from them). Yet Bradley himself has refused to condemn the fliers or the ads.

This represents the crudest kind of politics. No doubt Bradley knows Shreveport’s history where blacks largely vote for black candidates and (to a lesser degree) whites for white ones. Trends still show that on election day the plurality of the electorate in Shreveport will be black. Media castigating blacks who dare to not oppose whites in order to create a kind of racial solidarity that can translate into a winning majority may be tactically beneficial, but also puts the campaign into serious jeopardy of hypocrisy.

Bradley can’t have it both ways – presenting a nonracial image to his campaign in the hopes of attracting white voters, yet tacitly permitting racist media to encourage racial solidarity among black voters that also could mine votes for him. In no uncertain terms he must condemn these media, lest he become known as a race hustler for political convenience rather than as a serious, thoughtful supplicant to the mayor’s job.


Couhig nod gives Nagin a strategy to win runoff

With defeated New Orleans candidate Rob Couhig endorsing the incumbent Ray Nagin, who finished the primary at 38 percent, 9 percent ahead of runner-up Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a stroll through some post election statistics shows how Nagin can win the general election runoff.

Let’s assume that, partially as a result of the endorsement, a quarter of Couhig voters go for Nagin, a quarter pull the lever for Landrieu, and the other half are so disgusted that a status quo candidate will win that they roll off and don’t participate at all. A wash like this is to Nagin’s advantage, for two reasons: first, because he led the primary, every vote eliminated or that he can offset gets him closer to victory, all other things equal.

But, second and more intriguingly, as expected Couhig performed best in the precincts that turned out the most voters both in raw numbers and turnout percentage. If you divide precincts by the number of votes cast into quintiles, in the highest two Couhig averaged over 13 percent of the vote – precincts where Nagin’s advantage over Landrieu was only about 4 percent. It’s the bottom three quintiles, where Couhig averaged less than 6 percent, where Nagin really hammered Landrieu – on average about 26 percent.

This means if Nagin can fight with Landrieu to a draw for Couhig voters, he will have eliminated a major cache of votes for Landrieu to pick up that comprise much of the lowest-growth area for runoff voters. But merely negating this is not enough to provide a victory, because Nagin did best in the lowest vote population precincts (lowest quintile containing 45,175 registrants; the highest, 82,396). Nagin also must manufacture new votes for himself.

The highest-growth areas for potential votes, the lowest three quintiles, heavily favored Nagin in the primary. Not surprisingly, they also had the lowest participation rates, with Nagin’s margin growing as participation declined. Thus, any increased voting here (where the highest proportion of the electorate is black; 49.4 percent of the highest quintile is, but 83.6 percent of the lowest quintile is) will mean almost all of these new votes would accrue to Nagin.

(And a reason why these areas, which supported Nagin most heavily, had the lowest turnout was they disproportionately comprised the ravaged areas. Which means that these people least wanted a change in government even thought they were hit the worst by the storms, and Nagin is favored among them even more since as time marches on these voters increasingly comprise returnees coming into town through May 20.)

Nagin’s problem is that a large chunk of another defeated rival’s voter, Ron Forman’s, are likely to head Landrieu’s way, and they disproportionately comprised the top quintiles. Even if Nagin could draw 20 percent of that vote, Landrieu still would squeak by even given the scenario outlined above concerning Couhig’s voters. Thus, his strategy also must create new votes in the high-growth areas – not an easy job given they are the most likely ones to be displaced. But more evidence that there’s room for growth for him out there is among the absentee totals (largely that of displaced voters) he polled about the same as for all voters, while Landrieu actually polled 6 points higher.

Nagin’s best chance to win, therefore, is a two-pronged strategy of playing up on anti-Landrieu sentiments, hoping to drive Couhig voters away from Landrieu and either into Nagin’s arms or to the sidelines (and this should pick up some Forman voters, too), which blocks Landrieu vote growth in his areas of greatest potential gain, and concentrating on the low-turnout precincts, which hold the greatest growth potential to create new voters for him. Again, this isn’t going to be easy, but it is possible and represents Nagin’s best shot to win.


LA House puts politics ahead of improving education

Not much good has come out of the 2005 hurricane disasters in Louisiana, but an increased realization of the benefits of school vouchers, if not their implementation, can come from it – if enough politicians have the courage to embrace such a program.

HB 301 by state Rep. Tim Burns would create a state-subsidized voucher program benefiting students in Orleans Parish who did or would have attended schools deemed failing academically through state accountability standards or one of the school swept up into the Recovery District now running the vast majority of schools theoretically existing in Orleans Parish (even as many have failed to reopen). It would permit students essentially a free education at any school, including private ones, that meet certain stringent criteria.

Passage of this bill certainly would facilitate the repopulation of New Orleans; private schools have opened much more quickly than public ones in wake of the hurricanes, and undeniably have outperformed them for years. If displaced families with children that would qualify knew of this, they would have much greater incentive to return home.

And the advantages of improving standards thus results for students who both leave a school by voucher and those who stay, brought about by increased competition from increased access to nonpublic schools do not have to be confined to Orleans Parish. The bill explicitly terms its program “pilot” in nature, with it to last four years. Success logically would allow for its spread to the entire state.

This has been realized even by those whose allies have opposed voucher programs in the past. When a local official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, whose national organization has gone on the record opposing voucher programs that expand choice for public school students, argues for them, the compelling nature of the argument certainly has taken hold.

Of course, the educational establishment, with voucher programs clearly illuminating its lack of competence, obfuscates the essential truth of them with specious arguments. When a school superintendent says something like “no one has done more for children of dysfunctional homes than public schools,” you now either this person is ignorant of the latest research in education or wants to cover up the fact that voucher programs (and other school choice programs) work for students of all demographic characteristics in order to insulate the greater effort a competing voucher program would present to his organization.

Unfortunately, while the bill initially received 52 votes (almost all in opposition being Democrats) in the House two-thirds affirmative or 70 were required. A motion again yesterday failed to get the requisite support, and the bill now languishes. It’s just another sign about how too many politicians in Louisiana would rather protect favored constituencies and fiefdoms that seriously entertain improving the quality of life in the state.


LA Senate's increased insurance regulation to drive up costs

The legacy of populism in Louisiana includes the belief that Louisiana should get people from other places to pay for the preferences enjoyed by Louisianans. We got another airing of that philosophy last week in the Senate Insurance Committee as it debated bills relating to insurance coverage and premiums.

One, SB 693 by state Sen. Robert Adley, would abolish the ability of insurance companies to file for rate increases up to ten percent without having to go in front of the gubernatorially-appointed Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission. All that does is improve the chances for politics to be injected into the process: all increases regardless of degree now must first face vetting by actuaries in the Department of Insurance and be authorized by it.

Informed that having the “flex-band” option attracted policy writers to the state (the increased competition from which lower rates), Adley dazzled those present with his ignorance of economics by stating, “Companies came, made money and are leaving again. They don't need us.” I wonder if that’s the attitude Adley has in his business and, if so, it’s a wonder he’s been in it so long.

Adley doesn’t understand that business can only make money when it has customers, so the more the better, but, more importantly, they want a customer base on which they can generate a profit because, guess what, if they can’t, firms go out of business. These companies will stay if they can get their rates adjusted to a level that accurately reflects the risk inherent in the properties they insure. The last thing the state needs are political appointees reviewing every rate increase and deciding not to grant them because people think insurance rates are going too high. What happens then is insurers simply stop coming to the state.

That’s already been happening, and that consequence was the subject of another bill, SB 651, by Sen. Reggie Dupre. This bill would remove the requirement that the state-owned insurer of last resort, the Louisiana Citizens’ Property Insurance Corporations charge premiums at least 10 percent above a price of a basket of premiums from private firms. This is to allow a greater bonding capacity and to prevent driving out of the state private firms.

But rather than having this greater stability and private insurance presence in the state, Dupre seemed to be more concerned about rapidly, but justifiably, escalating premiums and private insurers bailing out of the state than these issues. What he, nor Adley, seems to understand is that if Louisiana builds on its reputation of being business-unfriendly with the actions contemplated in their bills, that these insurers are going to leave the state, forcing the state-owned insurer to take on more and more properties at higher and higher rates.

And that’s bad news, because as the voice of reason on the committee Sen. Julie Quinn pointed out, the state-backed approach is nothing more than socialized insurance because deficits in it are made up by assessing additional premium costs on holders of private insurance. If the state won’t grant these increases to pass on to consumers, then these private insurers will leave the state, too.

The solution is simply to let the market prevail, which means getting over the idea that you can live anywhere you please without possibly paying exorbitant rates because of living in a risky area. It is not some Louisianans’ given rights to live wherever they want and expect ratepayers in the rest of the state or the remainder of the country to subsidize them (the same thing goes with levees and flood protection); nobody’s putting a gun to their heads and making them live in the places, either. If rates skyrocket, so be it; that’s the price some pay for living where they want, and it’s unfair to pass along so much of the responsibility for making that choice to others.

Fortunately, that bill did not make it out of committee but unfortunately Adley’s did, and not only that but then today squeaked through the entire Senate with some curious supporters – probable candidate for Insurance Commissioner James David Cain, announced candidate for Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, and stalwart fee-market supporter Max Malone. The House needs to stop this bill and instead consider reforms that reduces the state’s exposure to the insurance business and creates a friendlier environment that will cause private insurers to want to write policies in Louisiana.


Orleans turnout great news, even better for GOP

From the looks of comments given by a number of politicians and pundits, many fundamentally misunderstand the relationship between the results of the New Orleans mayor’s election primary and state elections in almost a year and a half.

First of all, answering the question about how many votes statewide Democrats will lose for 2007 I projected it two months ago in my paper presented at the Louisiana Political Science Association annual meeting: about 50,000. Roughly, about 25,000 Republican voters are projected to be out of Orleans and the state for the 2007 primary that otherwise would have been there without the hurricane disasters, but about 75,000 Democrat voters also are predicted to be absent. Whether that is significant is another matter.

In 2003, that margin still could have gotten Gov. Kathleen Blanco a narrow win over now-Rep. Bobby Jindal. However, for 2007 Blanco looks highly endangered while Jindal appears an early favorite to steamroll over all competitors for that office, so that margin wouldn’t matter then, either. Still, in close races Republicans have become advantaged, if the projections play out.

That these people don’t know about the 50,000-vote prediction is a minor shortcoming compared to their failure to properly analyze the meaning of the 36 percent turnout in the mayor’s race. Rather than interpreting this, in light of turnout nearly 10 percent higher for the 2002 contest, as a discouragement (and they are not the only ones to have made this mistake), in fact it is an exceptionally encouraging sign for upcoming Orleans elections.

Note that New Orleans’ population on Apr. 22 was unlikely to be more than half of its pre-Katrina level. Further, of that population only a portion is registered to vote – just about 60 percent if you take pre-election figures as accurate. But they aren’t – because so many registered voters really aren’t residents of New Orleans now who still appear on the rolls. Noting that there probably are disproportionately fewer children among the returnees and people marginally connected to the city who would have been unlikely to be registrants also disproportionately have not returned, perhaps 75 percent of those who have are registered voters. Estimating city population then at 218,000, this means 163,500 registrants were there on Apr. 22 – meaning turnout really was over 66 percent, a very healthy figure.

Admittedly, about 21,000 of those votes came from absentee or early voting. However, about half of that came from people opting for satellite, early voting in Orleans Parish, so even if we shave 10,000 off the final turnout figure (of 108,153), that’s still a very good 60 percent turnout of registered voters.

(It also points out the magnificent waste of money foisted upon the state by Democrats, principally at the insistence of Secretary of State Al Ater, to spend over $3 million extra beyond what the state and federal constitution required in voter contacts that got, using historical records, about 8,000 votes above normal – that’s about $375 per extra vote, or about what it would cost for an entire day for the state to provide skilled around the clock health care to a disabled person at home, at a time when almost 15,000 of them are stuck on a waiting list for state services. That is, the money Ater blew on the election could have served 25 such people for an entire year.)

Finally, just as many have misinterpreted the results as an indicator of lower future turnout, it also would be premature to say it is anti-incumbent. The May 20 general election can tell us more, but the fact that Mayor Ray Nagin pulled 38 percent of the vote I’m sure would have surprised many who now muse about any presumed anti-incumbent trend on the high side. Elections these days are rather candidate-specific, so it’s really the qualities of the incumbent and challengers that are the primary factors. It appears the majority of Orleans incumbents will survive, and, with Jindal out there, even without any hurricanes many analysts about now probably would have been writing concerning a tough reelection campaign ahead for Blanco.