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Perkins experiment exception in NW LA results

With one huge exception, elections in northwest Louisiana’s two most populous parishes changed things little.

Last weekend culminated the election season, marked by Shreveport city and Caddo Parish School Board elections, plus the latter in Bossier Parish. The Bossier contests featured next to no excitement whatsoever; even with a few incumbents opting out (one after qualifying), all but one of those districts drew just one qualifier and just one incumbent ended up with a challenge, which he beat back. With this conforming to Bossier’s eccentric small town/apathetic dynamics, it didn’t even need last Saturday’s elections to have wrapped up the Board’s composition for the next four years, which remains in partisan terms ten Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent.

Caddo and Shreveport city council contests provided little more excitement or change. In the school district, fewer than half the seats had competition and none of the challenged incumbents lost who had won previous election. The anomalous appointed member, Durwood Hendricks, did see his district with which his views and its didn’t exactly mesh dump him in November. But when the dust settled, the Board reverted to its form for most of last term – five white Republicans, one white Democrat, and six black Democrats – with nine old faces returning.

Council races produced a majority of newcomers, but perhaps only because of term limits. In November, a back to the future scenario unfolded when voters dispatched the controversial Democrat Stephanie Lynch by voting in challenger and former seat occupant Democrat James Green, but this failed to happen again last weekend when current Democrat Councilman Willie Bradford held on against former member Democrat Rose Wilson McCulloch, meaning he has ousted her and defended that in consecutive elections.

The partisan balance remained the same, with four of the seven being Democrats, but the racial composition changed with now all Democrats being black – one a rookie – and all Republicans – including two newcomers – being white. Thus, Shreveport now joins New Orleans, Monroe, and Alexandria as large Louisiana municipalities with a black Democrat mayor and black Democrat majorities on their city councils.

That became true regardless of the one jarring break with all of this continuity, the defeat of Shreveport Democrat Mayor Ollie Tyler by a political newcomer less than half her age, Democrat Adrian Perkins. With her plagued by issues including an inability of the city to bill water provision correctly, a police chief that appeared to have lost the confidence of many, and endorsing a pie-in-the-sky economic development plan widely panned, voters soundly rejected her reelection attempt in favor of a political blank slate that hardly has lived any of his adult life in Shreveport while spending all of it in the armed forces or law school and until recently showed no real interest in the community by never voting in any of its elections.

This willingness to experiment by voters without calling upon a Republican to do the job – in the general election, had only one major GOP candidate run he likely would have led Perkins into the runoff, but Perkins probably would have triumphed although perhaps not as convincingly – presents an opportunity for major restructuring of city government and its priorities, but has an equal chance of stagnation as the tyro Perkins must engage in sinking or swimming in a pool of experienced politicians, political elite hangers-on, and entrenched bureaucrats.

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