Recent resignations by elected officials in Caddo Parish governments could create a lot of controversy shaping their compositions for years to come.
Last week, Democrat Lynn Cawthorne resigned his Caddo Parish Commission post, and not by choice – he pled guilty to a felony that by law disqualifies his service in an elected capacity. Local Shreveport ordinance forced out Republican (for now) James Flurry when he moved from his City Council district.
This doesn’t change the partisan control of the Council, with currently four Democrats and two Republicans seated. By Dec. 2 the Council must choose a replacement or default to the governor.
Likely that means the majority will pick a Democrat. Since the last reapportionment, this District E has swung into majority-minority status and Democrats outnumber Republicans better than two-to-one. As the selection doesn’t involve partisan control, other factors will come into play.
Chiefly, it could come down to a cleavage involving Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins. Since his abysmal run for the Senate went down in flames last year, Perkins has kept a low profile after several embarrassing episodes earlier in his term that put him at loggerheads with the minority Republicans on the Council plus Democrat LeVette Fuller. The other Council Democrats typically have backed Perkins in his initiatives and when he faced criticism for controversial decisions, but Fuller has shown an independent streak.
If Fuller unites with the Republicans, they could appoint a Democrat skeptical of Perkins. And, because legally no election to fill the spot must occur if fewer than 18 months remain in the term – it has just over a year to run – that kind of replacement could bedevil Perkins the remainder of his term. In turn, this could affect significantly his chances for reelection.
In the case of the Commission, the crucial issue addressed by the ensuing appointment is reapportionment. Cawthorne’s exit from a majority-minority district with five others like it and six districts with a white majority leaves Republicans with a transient 6-5 majority. The real power play here would scrounge up a Republican to serve in that majority-minority District 6 – only seven percent of registrants there are, and it has just 180 black Republicans – to break the deadlock.
That means Republicans not only could control the Commission through (assuming it waits until the last possible chance to call a special election which goes to a runoff) April, 2023 – and the parish’s policy-making which would represent a significant departure from its recent direction heading off the rails – but also its reapportionment. It will have to finish the process by then and in doing so could draw at the very least six districts likely to elect Republicans.
This would forestall the parish’s trend – long ago washing over Shreveport where now blacks comprise four-sevenths of the population – towards majority-minority status, where the latest census data put blacks in the plurality just short of a majority. In such a knife’s edge situation, redistricting could go many ways, such as among districts a 7-5 black clear majority, 6-5 with a swing district, 5-6 with a swing district, or 5-7 giving whites a clear majority in a majority of districts. Existing boundaries mimic the 6-5 with swing district (held by a Republican at present) arrangement.
At a minimum, by selecting one of their own the Republicans controlling the process could protect themselves from a districting scheme that likely makes their party becoming a permanent minority for the next decade. At the maximum, depending upon racial and partisan geographic distributions, they could construct districts that give them a good chance of maintaining a majority for that period. It will be interesting, and highly significant, who the temporary GOP majority chooses.