The entry of Republican Caddo Parish Commissioner Mario Chavez into Shreveport’s mayoral contest likely would be the only way incumbent Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins doesn’t win reelection – by Chavez not running as a Republican.
Last week, Chavez announced his intention. His makes for the fourth such entrance, joining in challenging Perkins another commissioner, Republican Jim Taliaferro who also ran in 2018, and former city councilor Tom Arceneaux of the GOP.
However, Chavez gave every indication he would eschew his partisan label in this race, even if that party very much is the strong conservative’s natural political home. He wisely would do so, following the Friday Ellis gambit.
Ellis, the no party mayor of Monroe, famously knocked off longtime Democrat incumbent Jamie Mayo in 2020 without even needing a runoff. This result seems even more stunning when considering the white Ellis won in a city with 63 percent black voter registration.
Mayo had plenty of time to build up sentiments against him, and he governed in a manner seemingly less and less in touch with the public, making him vulnerable to a newcomer. Yet Perkins carries some of the same characteristics with him, in that he made a series of controversial moves in the first half of his term, culminating in a disastrous run for U.S. Senate. Since then, he has laid rather low, but the fodder left available to use against him is substantial.
A quality black Democrat also would have a chance to send Perkins into early retirement, but at this point none appear willing to make that effort. Such a happenstance would increase the chances of a Republican winning, because the goal for any challenger would be to get a wounded Perkins into a runoff.
But ultimately it won’t work if you are a Republican. Shreveport voters, in combination with a series of lackluster GOP mayoral candidates, have shown a distinct aversion to them in recent elections. The last time a runoff election even featured a Republican occurred in 2010, where that unfortunate lost nearly two-to-one, and the last time a Republican provided any sort of spirited competition came in 2006.
When Taliaferro revealed his intent over a year ago, the hope was to triangulate with at least another Democrat to put him in a runoff with Perkins to face the majority black electorate and hope Perkins’ misadventures could eke out enough crossover vote to win. However, to succeed this depended upon Taliaferro, a local party officer, from declaiming his partisanship which he shows no sign of doing and that no other Republican entered the race.
But, earlier this year Arceneaux did, and curiously so. After being out of politics for over three decades, he threw his hat into the ring. Much has changed since the tight downtown clique that used to run the city when he served has given way to raw black Democrat elite power that rules the roost today. Even if economic power still resides in the main in the hands of Arceneaux’s business crowd, political power long ago split from that and exists now mostly independently and is the force that wins elections. Arceneaux has next to no chance of winning but by putting two quality GOP candidates on the ballot splits the vote to end effectively any GOP chance at even making the runoff if another quality candidate entered.
And, if the current dynamic holds, Chavez – also a local GOP party official – has done that. Democrats, especially blacks, disgruntled with Perkins now have a safe candidate – that is, not a Republican – to draw their vote, and enough Republicans will recognize Chavez has the best chance of beating Perkins, taking the same cues as regarding Ellis in Monroe, who was backed by Republicans and interests usually aligned with them plus his wife Ashley serves on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as a Republican.
If these four hold as the quality candidates in the race and campaign accordingly, Perkins and Chavez will make the runoff, a subsequent contest where Chavez will have an increased turnout advantage over Perkins compared to the general election (depending upon which City Council candidates get driven to runoffs) and stands a realistic chance of winning. It will blanche Chavez to homogenize his rhetoric to remove partisan references and to renounce his Republican label at qualification, but it makes for his best chance of winning and Shreveport’s best shot to rid itself of Perkins.