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Questions remain about McPherson surrender motives

Democratic state Sen. Joe McPherson halted his exit attempt from his term-limited position by withdrawing from the District 4 Public Service Commission general election runoff, conceding the contest to Republican former Member of Congress Clyde Holloway. But the manner of his departure and his statements concerning it don’t add up.

Often, candidates do have some idea about how to cut their losses even if they make a runoff. Before the primary election even takes place, they will have certain vote targets for themselves and their opponents in mind, and also may include benchmarks for performance in certain key parishes or precincts. Thus, when the results do roll in, within a short period of time they know whether they should opt out of what they perceive to be a decidedly uphill struggle; a quick decision is necessary either to stop wasting time on the campaign or not to waste time dithering and to get on with it.

Which makes McPherson’s passing up the chance very odd in how it happened. Over a week lapsed before he announced his would not continue, eating up over a quarter of the time before the runoff would have happened. It’s difficult to believe that McPherson, who was been in a state elective position for most of around a quarter century, would have not worked out scenarios well in advance of the primary date and then decided quickly.

Ringing even more strangely are his articulated reasons for getting out. He stated “full-time campaigning” would detract too much from other activities in his life, especially in interfering with the beginning of the legislative session which begins five days before the runoff would have happened. He also argued that the dynamics of this election, which would be the only one on the ballot almost everywhere, did not favor him with the expected low turnout.

Oddly, here McPherson seems to imply that he was doing something other than “full-time campaigning” prior to the primary, because we must assume logically that his level of campaigning did not appear to be a problem prior to it, otherwise he would not have entered the race at all. In reality, his campaign seemed pretty serious and consuming so it’s difficult to see that a short runoff campaign would add significantly to his time constraints compared to his previous efforts. Further, the remark about the Legislature rings hollow – in the first week of its meeting, which is the only time of overlap with the campaign, little gets done because of all the initial start-up procedures. At most, he might miss a committee meeting or two and some floor sessions that will do little substantively. Many others have campaigned for much longer during far busier times without such an apparent attack of conscience.

Finally, while Holloway would have been the favorite going into the contest, McPherson’s chances of winning were not close to hopeless, given the dynamics evident in the primary. And the comment about turnout being low was especially curious – because low also was the turnout for the primary where for many precincts it was the only thing on the ballot. In large population centers, in Lake Charles with its municipal elections and in Rapides Parish there was tax item on the ballot these likely spurred primary turnout some. But at worst, turnout in the runoff should have dropped only marginally from its already low level.

One thing could explain this delayed reaction: perhaps McPherson did some polling right after the primary and found that the vast bulk of the other defeated candidate in the contest’s primary voters indicated willingness to vote for Holloway in the general election runoff. Otherwise, the story doesn’t ring genuinely. If so, whatever the real reasons may be are irrelevant to the fact he opted out, but nonetheless might be fascinating to know.

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