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McCrery retirement puts spotlight on replacements

With U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery’s announcement that he will not seek reelection to Louisiana’s 4th District, two favorites immediately emerge, not least because of the new closed primary system that will favor conservative Republicans and a particular kind of Democrat.

Republican McCrery’s deferral almost a year before the primaries no doubt was made to boost Republican chances at holding the seat, because it will give fellow Republicans plenty of chance to organize to take on potentially a formidable Democrat who has been plotting for years to take a stab at this office. It’s not Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who ran against McCrery when the last vacancy occurred but who has just limped through a quixotic, resource-exhausting campaign for governor and who would have to give up his current office to do so. Nor would it be any black candidate, in a district that is about a quarter white Democrat, a quarter black Democrat, and a quarter Republican – if one particular Democrat does enter the contest.

Because he’s the only white Democrat who in recent years has proven he can draw together enough white and black Democrat votes to win a major office, former Shreveport mayor Keith Hightower would box out any competitor black or white. And McCrery’s decision not to wait to retire puts Hightower in a weaker position. Memories are still fresh about how Hightower foisted hundreds of millions of dollars of debt on Shreveport to build a big-money-losing convention center and hotel, even as water and sewerage rates soar because this money wasn’t used to repair basic infrastructure. Such reminiscences may have dulled by 2010 and the public monuments in question may end up losing less money, and Hightower has that much less time to raise money and to campaign.

Whether intended, the timing also assists the favorite to win the Republican nomination, state Rep. Mike Powell. A potential competitor could be attorney and former mayoral candidate Jerry Jones, but being only a year removed from his expensive losing effort would make it difficult for him to catch up to Powell, whose state legislative jobs enables him to have been continuously visible in the 13 parishes that comprise the district (and most prominently in Caddo and Bossier where half the district’s registrants reside) and, not having any competition since 2003, could quickly tap into fresh supplies of funds. The only Republican that has Powell’s ability in this regard is Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, but it’s unlikely Prator would trade being the closest thing the parish has to a chief executive to which he could get himself reelected to for life for being a low-level member of a legislative body, even if it is Congress.

Other suggested candidates have much more daunting odds. On the Democrat side, candidates from the 2006 election Patti Cox and the Rev. Artis Cash have no chance with any major Democrat running. One major Democrat who could win the nomination would be state Sen. Lydia Jackson, given that the balance between white and black Demcorats in the district is about even. But surely she realizes outside of a miracle she has no chance of winning the general election. The same applies to Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover. Recently defeated state Rep. Taylor Townsend needs to understand he's not going to win this seat with Hightower in the race, especially since he could not even beat a political newcomer for the state Senate a month ago.

On the GOP side, there are a few names who have announced explorations of potential candidacies, but all face distinct organizational and fundraising problems compared to Powell and Prator. The only one who might have a chance against those two, state Sen. Robert Adley, just switched to the party and is disliked by too many party activists who disproportionately would turn out for this kind of contest for him to be able to win the nomination.

Expect announcements to begin in early 2008, and probably Hightower’s and Powell’s names to head the field.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the Republicans will have a difficult time keeping Jim's seat. I do feel, however, in order to ensure they do, McCrery's best option would be to resign in March. That way, then Gov. Jindal can call a special election in May. Jindal will still have his most impressive honeymoon approval ratings and can team up (again) with McCrery, another money-making machine, to endorse the candidate of their choosing. No Democrat candidate could raise as much money as the "chosen" Republican in such a brief period of time.