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Will reformism's and Republicanism's wins continue?

Reformism and Republican conservatism were the watchwords of the 2007 Louisiana primary elections, and each side of the Red River gave us a dose of one or the other.

On the Caddo side, a set of predictable races surprisingly made the Senate District 38 race the most interesting. Incumbent Republican Sherri Smith Cheek has one of the most liberal/populist voting records of Senate Republicans, and even in the entire Senate, but with her campaign coffers awash in funds from special interests, particularly the health care industry where she has fought to keep state priorities away from more efficient, individual- and community-based care in favor of more wasteful spending favoring institutionalized care, it was not expected that an unknown Republican reformer, attorney Alan Seabaugh, would give her much competition.

But despite being outspent about three to one, Seabaugh, who relentlessly placed himself as a genuine conservative, reform-minded alternative to her, nearly knocked off Cheek whose total expenditures approached the $200,000 level. He came within 300 votes of her in Caddo Parish but only got 40 percent of the vote in the smaller-populated DeSoto Parish part of the district.

This should serve as a shot across the bow to entice Cheek to alter her voting record in a more conservative direction. Up against a more experienced, higher-quality candidate she well may have lost, and the outcome should encourage tougher competition against her in 2011 if she does not change.

As interesting was the role Republican Party identification played on the Bossier side of the river. Of course, the vast majority of candidates in the parish now avoid the Democrat label; electoral prospects have gotten so bad for them that longtime Democrat stalwart Wanda Bennett didn’t even sign up for the Police Jury District 3 under the party label for which she had labored for decades, choosing to run as no party (a tactic pioneered on the Jury by District 10 member Jerome Darby). It worked, for she defeated a Republican.

Maybe Coroner Rita Yanez Horton should have followed that lead. The incumbent ran as a Democrat against newcomer John Chandler and was blown out. Democrat District 5 juror Henry Mitchell might have benefited as well, getting upended by a Republican, Barry Butler. Outside of state Sen. Robert Adley’s brushing off a college-aged longshot and longtime member Winfred Johnston getting reelected, the Republicans triumphed up against Democrats.

But perhaps the most significant demonstration of the power of the GOP label came in a contest of two Republicans the House District 9 tilt between School Board member Henry Burns and education official Richey Jackson. Despite Burns having switched from the Democrats only months before, the parish GOP endorsed Burns, who ended up winning by less than 100 votes. Although a party endorsement doesn’t mean much in Louisiana, in a race that close, it probably made the difference.

The intriguing collision of reformism and Republican conservatism impends appropriately (the district split between the two parishes with a slight numerical edge to Caddo) with the upcoming general election runoff for Senate District 37 between state Rep. Billy Montgomery and former state Rep. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw. Montgomery, with a historically solid liberal voting record in the House from Bossier but who a year ago switched to the GOP, by the numbers would be an underdog to the impeccably conservative Shaw from Caddo.

Shaw, at 74 actually a few years older than Montgomery, surprised some by the vigor of his campaign to finish a few percentage points behind Montgomery, whose big problem is that most of the voters for the other two Republican candidates cast votes that way because they wanted conservative reformers in power so he is unlikely to get many of their votes, although he will pick up many of the lone liberal Democrat from the primary. Also, Shaw has a larger geographical base from which to draw.

But Montgomery might slip in if both the reform and conservative bases in the district, perhaps the most conservative/reformist district in the state, do not enjoy the same amount of energy as in the primary. Without Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal to excite them to turn out to vote for candidates like him, or Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom voluntarily removed from the ballot to annoy them to vote against candidates like him, Shaw’s campaign will have to work harder to ensure those conservatives and/or reformers will want to come out to the polls again where for many ballots the only other race on it will be the Attorney General’s contest.

Shaw’s campaign amazingly spent only about $50,000 to Montgomery’s nearly $300,000 in 2007. Only by continuing his outstanding grass-roots effort will Shaw demonstrate even the heavily-moneyed good-old-boys cannot keep Montgomery propped up in office against the reform tide surging across Louisiana. A Shaw win mgiht be the most obvious indicator that the general election runoffs will provide more of the same.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Sadow,
I received a soliciation in the mail today from Sheriff Larry Deen asking for votes for Montgomery. It was addressed to Bossier Parish Citizens. Is this legal? I know he isn't a civil servant and can legally solicit votes, but what if this was sent with taxpayer dollars? The ethics of this bother me!

Not to mention the fact that the timing limits the investigation and response time on the mailing.

Jeff Sadow said...

I got the same thing. It wasn't on official letterhead but, at the same time, there wasn't any obvious note saying how it was paid for.

What I thought was hilarious about it was Deen wrote that Montgomery wasn't one of the "the good ole boys." One good-old-boy saying another isn't, and we wonder why Bossier despite its large population and presence in a major metropolitan area is so behind the times -- and happy about it.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that if Montgomery can now dip into Deen's coffers then this is a nifty way to get around ethics restrictions, reporting and campaign law. It makes my skin crawl.

Anonymous said...

I got a mailer today from so former students in WY. They wanted me to vote for Dr. Shaw since he was such a great principal for them while also serving as sabatical and drawing full pay from the Caddo system as principal at Byrd.

Let's be real guys...neither of these guys are angels and this is a road nobody wants to go down, especially B.L. What happens on the desk should stay on the desk.