Search This Blog


Shaw retirement gives Smith early Senate advantage

It never had seemed likely that, at age 78 and a somewhat-different district almost certainly staring him in the face, Republican state Sen. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw would run for reelection this year. His formally-announced exit opens the stage for a contest, at least one ambitious politician does not hope to get by trying to preempt the field, as wrenchingly difficult and expensive as when Shaw captured the seat.

Besides his age and the rigors of campaigning in a district the boundaries of which are likely to be redrawn to some degree as a result of decennial redistricting, Shaw also gave himself a dozen-year deadline in state legislative service. Having served in the House from 1996-2004, then retiring to help care for his wife during a medically-trying period, her return to good health allowed him to capture the seat at the retirement of term-limited Max Malone.

For that alone he did area conservatives prodigious service.
In that campaign, then-recent party switcher and Republican-in-name-only former state Rep. Billy Montgomery spent a state record $511,000 in election year 2007 alone to try to win the seat. With an average of less than 41 over his previous term in the House on the Louisiana Legislature Log’s index of ideology/reform voting (100 being the maximal conservative/reformist score), Montgomery was trying to fool residents of perhaps the most conservative Senate district in the state into getting him elected.

Instead, spending only about $110,000 (which was less than two other candidates who were defeated in the primary; in all, almost $1.1 million was spent on the most expensive Louisiana legislative race in history), Shaw and his campaigners walked the entire district and effectively thereby answered questions about his stamina that enabled him to win going away in the general election. Averaging over 70 on the LLL index in his past three years, Shaw did not disappoint.

But one reason why he made official his departure when he did was term-limited Republican State Rep. Jane Smith gave public word she had decided to pursue the seat. Smith was a popular superintendent of Bossier Parish schools before she gained election to her current seat unopposed and in the first three-quarters of her latest term scored even more in line than Shaw with the district (which straddles Shreveport and Bossier City) at nearly an 80 average on the LLL index.

However, conservatives never have fully trusted Smith because during her first two terms she did not vote as reliably conservative, mustering an average LLL score just below 60 in her second term and drawing in 2003 and 2007 conservative challengers. Also having only about $15,000 in the bank at the end of 20010 and trying to introduce herself to the slightly more populated Caddo side of the district does not give her a lock unlike her initial run for the House (assuming the district remains largely the same after reapportionment).

Her fundraising may become a crucial dynamic because a potential competitor is one of Shaw’s vanquished, big-spending primary opponents, Republican businessman Barrow Peacock who spent almost a quarter million dollars in 2007 and was prepared to spend as much again had he made the runoff. Mostly self-financed, the conservative Peacock also put down the bucks in chasing a House seat in 2003 and the same in a special election in 2008 (a race he lost narrowly and could have won had he, just a couple of months earlier, enthusiastically endorsed Shaw against Montgomery). Holding Peacock back may be his image of being a perennial candidate who needs to expand his base of support beyond his own resources but, then again, if current state Rep. Barbara Norton could run for office seven different times before getting elected, perhaps not all is lost for him.

Democrats may vest their hopes in just-retired former Shreveport City Councilman Monty Walford, but that’s probably too much to hope for running as a Democrat. While he had about $25,000 left in his campaign account at the end of 2009, in such a conservative district it would take a lot more than that for a Democrat even to be competitive, especially with past votes to haunt him among that electorate such as favoring the money-losing convention center and accompanying hotel.

Sins of the brother may impede businessman Ryan Wooley’s candidacy, the brother of former Shreveport City Councilman Bryan Wooley. Bryan’s quixotic run for mayor made one wonder whether the long-shot exercise was designed to enhance his stature as a future legislative candidate. But after a poorly-run campaign imploded, he may have written himself off any chance at this seat at least for awhile and that would threaten to spill over on perceptions, fairly or not, of Ryan’s candidacy (with first names sounding so alike, many casual voters probably would confuse the two anyway). Rate Smith a moderate favorite coming out of the gate.

No comments: