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Nuisance candidates set to annoy incumbents

With the Louisiana Legislature out of substantive action hopefully for at least nine more months and an election in between, it’s time for nuisance candidates to come out of the woodwork, which a pair of northwest Louisiana incumbents running for reelection this fall must endure.

Given the voting behavior of its legislators, southeast Shreveport might have the most conservative electorate in the state. That area houses Senate District 37 represented by Republican state Sen. Barrow Peacock and House District 5 with GOP state Rep. Alan Seabaugh. The former has averaged over 80 this past term (not including this year) according to the Louisiana Legislature Log’s voting scorecard and the latter has had a mean of 75 (with 100 the maximum conservative/reform score).

Conservatives statewide consider both as standard bearers, in different ways. Peacock prefers staying out of the limelight and tackling nuts-and-bolts issues, while Seabaugh vigorously pushes high-profile issue preferences detested by the political left. Perhaps most famously, Seabaugh was the leading figure in preventing a vote last year to renew a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent. When subsequently only a 0.45 percent hike passed (which he also opposed), in essence he saved Louisiana taxpayers around $240 million a year over seven years.

Neither of them, each remaining eligible for one more term, faced a real challenge from the left in 2015. Peacock ran unopposed while Seabaugh defeated a former judicial candidate with over 70 percent of the vote.

But their relative invulnerability apparently won’t stop the hard left from taking a swing at them in 2019. One of my colleagues at Louisiana State University Shreveport, Brain Salvatore, aims to take on Seabaugh, while a local artist and National Organization for Women chapter president Debbie Hollis intends to battle Peacock.

Of the two, Salvatore appears to take his task more seriously. His campaign’s social media page has frequent posts asking for donations that would have to be plentiful for him to be competitive, and he at least tries to appear more centrist by posts pledging to pursue bipartisan policy-making (neglecting to mention his own partisan affiliation) and claiming not to be anti-business when corporations act “pro-citizen.” Naturally, he takes shots at Seabaugh as well, implying that he is part of a defective state government.

But his posts also display not only tone-deafness about issues of the day, but about his district’s preferences. By way of example of the former, he alleges to support greater economic development and opportunity, yet also extolls the state sales tax increase of last year which will extract an estimated $500 million annually out of the people’s pockets, thereby attenuating their opportunities. In contrast, one example he held up for development was government-sponsored, through the taxpayer-financed Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City.

Concerning the latter kind of obliviousness, Salvatore also promoted his involvement with a rally advocating greater restrictions on Second Amendment rights. That will not go down well with a constituency keenly protective of its gun rights. While circumspect in other ways to discourage the impression that he’s the kind of full-spectrum liberal that the district’s voters shun, little hints pervade suggesting that.

Such as the thread of conspiracy belief weaving throughout the posts, from the canard that big-dollar political action committees, presumably aligned with business interests, rig politics against “the people” (whom he alleges to speak for) to the “Cancer Alley” myth of south Louisiana. Obtusely, he claims that shadowy big money influences laws to help its own interests, yet seems oblivious that when he argues for more money to be thrown at state-run education, including to an overbuilt higher education system, despite more than adequate existing funding for elementary and secondary education despite its poor results, he’s doing the same thing.

(His higher education employment also brings up a question all such candidates must answer to voters: how will he perform his taxpayer-paid job and serve in the Legislature? Almost the only exception to dual officeholding involving full-time executive branch employees are higher education faculty members and administrators, but legislative service cannot interfere with or supplant contracted duties. That the Legislature meets regularly during the spring semester and can go into special session at any time makes it very difficult to do both, so Salvatore needs to explain to voters how that would be accomplished. Otherwise, he’s open to the charge of making promises that he can’t keep.)

Then there’s Hollis, whose reveals all with social media posts befitting what she proudly calls herself – a progressive. Thus, like Salvatore she rails against presumed corporate special interests, wants to reverse advances in educational choice and accountability, and seeks elimination of tax exceptions without flattening rates. (She also attended the same gun control rally that he did.)

But she additionally leads with her chin, by disparaging pro-life advocates, offering militant support for abortion, promoting free birth control, spreading the discredited assertion that women don’t receive equal pay for equal work, and supporting the Luddite fascination some fringe elements have in restricting oil pipelines in the state. None of this will endear the district’s voters to her.

Nor does she display much breadth and depth in her thinking. One entry she posted from another source alleged that the pro-life movement harbored white supremacist sentiments, when in fact the abortion and birth control movements in America trace back to eugenics-based arguments that assigned racial inferiority to blacks (as reminded recently by the writings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas).

With views so out of step with their districts, neither has a chance to win. That may not be the point so much as it is to spend a few months being a burr in the sides of conservative legislators who likely will take on significant leadership posts in their final four years in office.

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