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Election results strengthen Seabaugh influence

Early voting has started for the Nov. 18 runoff elections for state and local offices in Louisiana, but that doesn’t need resolution to declare the biggest winner in northwest Louisiana elections this cycle: Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, who is emerging as the region’s kingmaker.

Who will become state senator for District 31 in a couple of months in a far-flung district anchored in southern Bossier and Caddo Parishes, which together will have the plurality of population, and extending south. For a region, that is one of the higher-profile elected offices to attain, but more impressively is the strength Seabaugh showed at gaining it.

Known as an unwavering limited government conservative, that and his take-no-prisoners style of advancing his policy objectives has created many enemies on the political left and among get-along-go-along Republicans in name only. They banded to find a popular non-politician malleable enough to carry their water in retired collegiate basketball coach Republican Mike McConathy. Not only had his time on the hardwood in Bossier and Natchitoches Parishes built up considerable positive name recognition, but his father had served as Bossier school superintendent.

Seabaugh’s campaign, including 2022 when both he and McConathy declared, spent $379,000 up until the end of September prior to the Oct. 14 election, while McConathy spent $388,000 though the end of October. When Seabaugh’s numbers through October come in (due this week), the contest could set the all-time mark for candidate expenditures in a legislative race, beating the Senate District 36 record of 2019 won by GOP state Sen. Robert Mills, cementing Seabaugh’s reputation for raising funds on behalf of candidates and causes.

However, these numbers understate the actual amount of dollars that went into the contests. Some is traceable through political action committees required to file with the state, such as Americans for Prosperity that spent on behalf of over a dozen candidates including Seabaugh, who plunked down up through the end of September $184,000 for their elections. Others, however, legally can avoid reporting expenditures, such as Republican Patriots Protecting Property Rights who backed McConathy. Public reporting doesn’t reveal these figures, but an educated guess judging from the volume of outreach by several groups would place this outside spending at the very least as much as the amount spent by the campaigns, and likely considerably higher.

Based on resource allocation, Seabaugh won one of the toughest legislative races in state history. More impressively, while he had his own campaign to run and on which to concentrate, behind-the-scenes efforts here and there by him aided a number of his allies to win.

One, Bossier Parish Republican state Rep. Raymond Crews (a past recipient of Seabaugh donations), didn’t even draw an opponent, Two others in Bossier, GOP state Reps. Dodie Horton and Danny McCormick, won comfortably against what initially appeared to be tough contests (McCormick in a revamped district that now includes only Caddo Parish). They and Seabaugh formed the backbone of an effort to hold down state spending this spring in the Legislature, but were thwarted, and for their efforts were punished by both House Republican leadership and Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in denial of capital outlay projects for their districts

In Caddo, his ally GOP state Sen. Barry Milligan called it a day and was replaced by Republican state Rep. Thomas Pressly, which opened that district for Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Republican Michael Melerine, a lawyer in Seabaugh’s firm and past recipient of Seabaugh donations, to grab. Meanwhile, Melerine’s wife Stacey is a heavy favorite to replace her husband this month in the district that spans half of northern and half of western Louisiana.

But Seabaugh’s influence also is measured in who didn’t choose to support. In 2019, he backed Mills, but Mills like all senators voted to scuttle the spending reduction plan forwarded by Seabaugh and other conservative representatives, so none of that help was forthcoming in 2023. Mills ended up losing to GOP Bossier Parish School Board Member Adam Bass rather decisively.

And Seabaugh, as the head of the Louisiana Freedom Caucus, a group of limited government conservatives in the Legislature, also scored some legislative election victories. The group successfully promoted the candidacies of a number of like-minded legislators and newcomers, aided by a similar but unrelated political action committee of the same name.

The Bossier political establishment is not keen on Seabaugh’s muscling in on parish politics. He didn’t win fans among it when he supported Republicans Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler and City Councilor Brian Hammons in their successful bids for office, both of whom have been a thorn in the sides of parish political insiders. Nor do they like Crews and Horton, his allies.

But they may have to settle for an uneasy truce, with Seabaugh now as one of two parish senators and Bass, part of that clique, benefitted from Seabaugh’s positioning on that contest. And it’s not that they are at complete loggerheads; in 2020, Seabaugh donated to GOP City Judge Santi Parks’ campaign, whose wife Julianna was reelected recently as a Bossier Parish Police juror.

Still, as more and more rookie candidates that Seabaugh backs win and his existing allies keep winning reelection, he will capture increased influence in the parish at the expense of the traditional Bossier power base – besides, of course, fending off their handpicked candidate designed to end his career in elective office. If you shoot at the king, you’d better not miss or he’ll come back stronger than ever.

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