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Perkins loss hints at his early political exit

The strange political saga of Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins continues, and at this rate his political career won’t last past 2022 – a slide that has the potential to put a shadow Republican in the city’s top spot.

When Perkins announced this summer that he would take on incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, the political left swooned with visions of him as “the perfect candidate” (“the next Obama!”). That it would look solely at the demographics and ignore his checkered, short record as mayor – which only became more controversial as the campaign progressed – speaks volumes that they couldn’t spot a doomed candidacy from the start.

Naturally, Cassidy blew Perkins out of the water, with the party suffering its worst Senate electoral showing in history. Worse for him, the increased attention the contest invited onto his tenure compounded his difficulty in gaining reelection.

Of course, the very first question coming from his pursuit of the Senate slot concerns his service as mayor: if he, as he had said in campaigning for it in 2018, had run because he saw a city in crisis and it needed a new kind of politics and leadership, why would be bail out so quickly. Mumbling that the country was in turmoil and he felt called to try to take that on won’t cut it as an explanation given clearly two years in office comes up way short in time needed for an attempted turnaround.

Thus, replete with missteps in those two years as mayor signals he doesn’t appear fully committed to the job in a crisis atmosphere by his own admission. And even the few bold things he has offered – competing with politics as usual such as preferring tax increases over vacant position cuts to increase public safety salaries – presumably necessary to kickstart Shreveport out of its slump don’t exactly resonate.

Just before launching his Senate bid, Perkins announced he had signed the city onto a project fronted by a leftist nonprofit to implement an experimental offshoot of the universal basic income idea. The most well-publicized exponent of it is Democrat Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs. Stockton is like Shreveport in many ways: although 50 percent larger in population, it’s also minority-majority and facing economic turbulence, and Perkins has been seen as a bit older wunderkind in a potential wave of young, dynamic leaders initiated by Tubbs’ win four years ago.

Guess what? For his trouble (even after receiving publicity through a fawning cable documentary), Tubbs looks set to go down to defeat against a rookie Republican businessman and former Marine unless he way outperforms on absentee ballots still being counted.

Tubbs is black and his opponent black and Hispanic, whereas Shreveport has no notable black Republican as yet that could challenge Perkins. But while Stockton’s election may show the vulnerability of a Tubbs/Perkins kind of mayor on their preferred issues, a smaller Louisiana central city to the east can provide a model of how Republicans regardless of race can defeat Perkins.

This summer, businessman veteran Friday Ellis, running without a party label, knocked off 19-year incumbent Democrat Mayor Jamie Mayo in Monroe, despite his being white and Mayo being black in an electorate two-thirds black and over half Democrat. Ellis, whose wife Ashley serves as a Republican on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is a Republican in all but name.

Ellis won in large part because of fatigue with Mayo, because black turnout significantly lagged that of whites (in part because of reduced enthusiasm for Mayo), and because enough blacks voted for him not discouraged by his having a Republican label, which black Democrat leaders in the state have demonized for decades. The door opened only, however, from disenchantment with Mayo and his insistence on trying to pry out another term.

This could lead to a similar situation in Shreveport with its politically-damaged mayor. Were a strong candidate not running as a Democrat – as long as he didn’t have recent ties to the GOP – to emerge and Perkins sought reelection without a Republican in the field, this could split Democrats (almost certainly Perkins will have to field an intra-party challenge) to force a runoff. If Perkins survived into the runoff, the non-major party challenger likely would defeat him.

That is, if Perkins runs again. By his semaphoring he wished to abandon his post after just two years, especially after his prior caterwauling about how the city faced crucial issues, this hints that Perkins sees his future outside of politics (absent a miraculous win that has gone by the boards). Historically, Shreveport mayors leave this field after exiting office, and by stepping aside voluntarily with a 1-0 mark means he would have greater leverage upon entering the worlds of lobbying, or public policy research, or legal work, or even executive branch jobs at the state (probably not in Louisiana) or federal level.

If so, a shadow Republican won’t get a shot at leading Shreveport. And that’s a thought likely, if perhaps only privately voiced at this time, running through the minds of Democrat powerbrokers in the city.

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