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Fourth District Democrat runoff to please Republicans

Entering the party primary elections, the big questions were whether a Second District runoff for Democrats would include incumbent Rep. Bill Jefferson, and which two of the three Republicans vying for the open seat in the Fourth District would advance to the runoff while the Democrat nomination was sewed up by former First Judicial District Attorney Paul Carmouche.

Jefferson’s only chance to win in December was to get into a runoff with former media reporter Helena Moreno, because with a majority black registration in the district and the high past propensity of blacks to vote for black candidates, as the only non-black candidate in the contest despite his legal troubles Jefferson could use this racial bloc voting to win. Any other candidate would negate this advantage and almost surely send Jefferson to defeat. At the same time, being up against Jefferson probably is Moreno’s best chance to win because his woes would be the most likely catalyst to break up black bloc voting.

As it was, the scenario worked out this way, with Jefferson coming home first with just 25 percent of the vote and Moreno around 22 percent. The interesting question now becomes whether the defeated candidates actually endorse Moreno, or do they sit back and stay uninvolved in the hopes that Jefferson incredibly wins the runoff and the seat only to be expelled from the House after what appears to be an almost-certain conviction for federal influence peddling crimes, reopening the seat for their efforts. If regardless Moreno pulled it out, however, they risk losing any influence at all with her by their silence, so there is political risk.

Polls in the Fourth showed Minden physician Dr. John Fleming and Shreveport trucking executive Chris Gorman consistently the top two candidates in the race over Bossier City lawyer Jeff Thompson. Seen as the most establishmentarian candidate and last in the race, Thompson’s candidacy never caught fire in a year where it was better to be seen as an outsider and he finished just a little behind the other two.

Made clear during the campaign, however, was that Thompson’s preference if he did not make the runoff was for Fleming. If he makes that any clearer with an endorsement, this probably gives Fleming, who finished slightly ahead of Gorman, the nomination.

Neither of these outcomes was a real surprise given the dynamics of the contests. But a shocker was the fact that Carmouche got forced into a runoff and against military retiree Willie Banks despite (from the latest reports) outspending the entire field almost double and eight times the amount Banks spent, that Carmouche is well known in Caddo and Bossier Parishes where the majority of district voters live with Banks being from rural Leesville, and that the entire national Democrat Party apparatus had lined up behind Carmouche.

The significance is not so much that Banks can win on Nov. 4 even with a big turnout in the district for Sen. Barack Obama, being that Carmouche got 48 percent of the primary vote, but that Carmouche now must spend extra money on winning the nomination and there must be concern about how independent voters, who could participate in this primary but not the Republican, will go in December. The fact that Carmouche could not finish off a weak field itself shows Carmouche is a soft candidate for the general election which must please Republicans.

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