If once isn’t enough to residents of District 8 of the Caddo Parish Commission, apparently a thousand times won’t be too many.
Last week, responding to the resignation of Republican Jim Taliaferro to take a Shreveport City Council seat, the Commission by a vote of 8-3 appointed Democrat Ronald Cothran to the district’s spot through October. Because legally inauguration of the next 2024-28 term happens a little too late to overlap the interim appointment according to the parish charter, simultaneously the fall ballot will have an election to cover the seat until the end of the year and then for the next term.
Controversially, the district is one of the most Republican-oriented in the state, with 48 percent of registrants with that party and just 30 percent Democrats. Prior to that, the Commission had six Democrats, four Republicans, and no party Mario Chavez, who had been elected twice as a Republican but changed his registration earlier this year when running unsuccessfully for Shreveport mayor.
Unfortunately, online records of who voted for which of the five candidates were unavailable, but in all likelihood Democrats muscled home one of their own in order to achieve a clear voting majority on the panel. The last time they had at least seven of the twelve positions was 1992-96.
A vote for a Democrat – a black one, giving the Commission seven black members in a parish with blacks barely the majority – likely will prove expedting a future body that routinely puts that many in office. Reapportionment carried out earlier this year will feature seven districts with a majority of black residents, as opposed to the current six, starting next term.
Still, this display of power by making representative of the district somebody whose label suggests he would oppose the majority of district preferences on a majority of issues is disturbing and, regrettably, not new to its residents. Three years ago, a similar situation occurred when a resignation opened up the Caddo Parish School Board District 8 seat, with the lines of that district overlapping largely those of the Commission (nine of 14 similar precincts).
Then, the majority Democrats on the Board (although one of each partisan swapped sides) tabbed a Democrat over a Republican to give them a greater majority. The jilted Republican, Christine Tharpe, got even when she won the special election that fall and then gained reelection last year.
Likely the same dynamic will play out later this year for this seat. The Commission majority in particular passed over Republican Lea Desmarteau, who ran strongly in 2015 for the position and her interest in the appointment may signal she will make another electoral attempt some months from now.
In the final analysis, to Caddo Democrats in these selection matters it’s not about who might best fit a district, but who best will serve their own political agenda.