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Tarver assent key to Shreveport mayor's race

As if on cue, Democrat state Sen. Greg Tarver did his best to lay rest to rumors that he disavowed less than completely Democrat lawyer Adrian Perkins’ candidacy for Shreveport mayor.

First in print, then over the air, Tarver tried to dispute conjecture that he staged a public break with Perkins, who as of May was dating his daughter (although apparently in long-distance fashion as Perkins recently graduated from Harvard Law School), while supporting him behind the scenes. For months some observers had linked the two together, and questioned the genuineness of a summer statement by Tarver announcing his withdrawal of support.

Tarver cited two reasons for his rejection: that Perkins, a Caddo Parish registrant since 2007 (just after he reached the age of voting eligibility), never had voted, and that he actually didn’t really reside in the parish and lied to Tarver about that. Before entering school, where one can live outside a parish but still be considered a resident while attending a higher education institution, Perkins’ military career had him stationed in Georgia, where he has owned a house for several years. However, since 2016 he has had registration at his mother’s house in Shreveport.

For Tarver, his complaints come about Perkins’ credibility. He calls Perkins’ deceptive over his residency and disingenuous over his commitment to Shreveport by his failure to vote ever. But these specific grievances lead to larger questions that could circulate among the public.

Essentially, Tarver’s shining the spotlight on these matters invites the electorate to question whether it would want someone in office who, until months ago, seemed indifferent to the community. It highlights that Perkins hardly has lived there and appeared so detached from the issues surrounding it that he couldn’t be bothered to request and fill out an absentee ballot even once in over a decade.

That information also detracts from Perkins’ outsider image, as someone who travelled around and served his country ready to return home and bring a fresh perspective to governance. Such candidates have come more into vogue in the past few years, but at least they typically have involved themselves in community affairs to some degree. In effect, Tarver’s charges make Perkins more of an international man of mystery, mutating the image of Perkins as an everyman free of past political connections who can appeal across multiple constituencies into one of an empty vessel with an unknown agenda potentially willing to shill for whatever interests back him.

(As to those interests, Perkins’ campaign finance filing doesn’t give away much. Besides the fact a number of donations don’t come with the legally-required address and a number come from the east coast, some local old-line white Democrats gave, most prominently the campaign committee of former Mayor Keith Hightower.)

This kind of profile typically doesn’t endear itself to voters. So, it’s very hard to argue that some kind of Tarver subterfuge continues when he actively disseminates such a negative portrayal to the electorate.

And he seems genuine in asserting that he hasn’t decided publicly who to support. While he called Democrat incumbent Mayor Ollie Tyler a “fine leader,” at the same time he said the city would “be a Detroit” in the near future because “the city is in trouble,” which appears to cast doubt on her governance skills. It seems unlikely he would vote for the city’s rival black political faction’s candidate Democrat Parish Commissioner Stephen Jackson, and while he has shown a streak of pragmatism in his legislative career to back Republican initiatives from time to time, it might ask too much for him to vote for either major GOP candidate, Republican businessman Lee Savage, and Republican retired law enforcement officer Jim Taliaferro.

As Tarver heads the other major black faction in Shreveport, whatever signal he gives could swing an election where the incumbent has a plurality of support but soft at that, the Republicans split their base’s support, and the other major black faction has had a difficult time getting its adherents interested in Jackson. But if he gives the word publicly or otherwise, whoever that name then stands a pretty good chance of making an inevitable runoff.

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