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Court clears race redo likely favoring Whitehorn

In Louisiana politics this year, perhaps the only thing more inevitable than a Republican Jeff Landry gubernatorial victory was the Louisiana Supreme Court denying an appeal of lower courts’ decisions rerunning the Caddo Parish sheriff’s contest. By contrast, successfully picking a winner in the Mar. 23 faceoff is very much evitable, an exercise that will be determined more by forces outside of the contest than the campaigning and dynamics within the parish.

After the Nov. 18 runoff, Democrat former Shreveport police chief and chief administrative officer Henry Whitehorn led Republican former city councilor John Nickelson by a single vote. However, a district court found enough irregularities under law to order another election, and the Second Circuit agreed. This week, the Louisiana Supreme Court ratified that with its action.

Given the undisputable proof and wording of Louisiana law, as was the case with the appellate court. the only real question was whether the non-Republicans on the Court would try to bring the matter to a potential reversal. Once again, they tried. Democrat Assoc. Justice Piper Griffin voted to hear and in a dissent essentially repeated the same objections made by the dissenters at the appellate level: elections with illegal ballots have these sanitized into legal ones if the unrealistic laws in place to challenge these can’t be followed. No party Chief Justice John Weimer provided a further rationale in his for empowering tainted election results and dispensing with common sense by saying procedures to overturn certified election results should be onerous, if not unworkable, such was the sanctity of the process compared to the desirability of judicial intervention.

Arguments which Republican Assoc. Justice James Genovese easily slew in his concurring opinion:

In a two-candidate race, the mere fact that one candidate ends up with one or more votes than his opponent, without regard or consideration given to proven fraud and unqualified voters casting ballots, does not equate to a just and fair election under our law and jurisprudence. A just and fair election can only be had when one candidate wins by a majority vote of qualified electors ….

… this election was not a free and fair election. A one-vote margin of victory supported by clearly established eleven unqualified voters cannot be said to constitute a fair election.

What is fair and essential to the candidates and the electorate, and to preserve election integrity, is to have a new runoff election with a winner decided by qualified voters.

As clear-cut as the case for a new election was, who will win is anything but. The date is significant in that it will coincide with the state’s presidential preference primaries, which for both parties will come later rather than sooner in the national delegate-collection process.

This means the most likely outcome of that process would be both nominees – almost certainly Democrat Pres. Joe Biden and Republican former Pres. Donald Trump – mathematically will have been decided by then, leaving little on the ballot to generate enthusiasm for the mass public and lowering turnout for all partisans. The next most likely scenario is that Biden has things wrapped up, but that Trump still hasn’t sealed the deal although it may be only a matter of time. Less likely still is neither has unassailable leads, and the least of all that Trump has secured the nomination but Biden hasn’t.

Reviewing the general and runoff elections this fall, Nickelson did better the higher the turnout. Reviewing those turnout figures with past Louisiana presidential preference primary turnouts under the varying competitive environments, this means if the GOP’s nomination remains in doubt, he will have the edge; otherwise, Whitehorn likely does, all things equal.

Money initially seems to be. Nickelson plunked down $565,000 throughout but held only $16,000 at year’s end. Whitehorn spent only $140,000 and raised nothing after the general election, but has $50,000 banked. Nickelson likely can outraise Whitehorn, but the latter seems to be able to gather enough to offset the former’s advantage.

Yet Whitehorn has a better rallying cry to mobilize partisans, regardless of exogenous turnout factors or money. Look for his campaign to trot out some version of he was robbed of a win, coupled with the race card played in some diluted version that stands the best chance of mobilizing his largely black voting base. Note that as soon as the news of the Court’s declination came out, he began going very negatively against Nickelson and his supposedly favored treatment by the courts, and earlier he alleged, using a racial dog whistle, that prospective voters in the runoff supporting him needed to vote “Because Your Life May Depend Upon It.”

It may well work. Excepting that one scenario where the GOP presidential nomination remains somewhat competitive, the turnout cards are held by Whitehorn. Nickleson will have to come up with an excellent strategy to outplay those.


Reverse sentencing subversion to deter murder

Life in prison doesn’t mean life in prison in Louisiana, even for murder. Given the current state of capital punishment in America, this translates into more heinous criminal activity and is something incoming governor Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and Legislature need to fix.

Just before Christmas, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards commuted the sentences of 40 murderers. This requires four of five votes from the Board of Pardons prior to that choice and has the practical effect of allowing out of prison people sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, in essence making a mockery out of the original sentence specifically but more generally eroding the deterrent effect of that punishment for first and second degree murder on the incidence of commission of homicide.

In recent years with Edwards at the helm and with the chance to appoint or reappoint members to the Board, who serve four-year terms concurrent with the governor, it has tilted more and more towards granting commutations and for murderers. Excepting 2020 when the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic limited activity, Board approval of commutations and gubernatorial approvals have increased steadily. Most notably, reviewing the more than 50 years sentenced category of commutations which is murderers, he commuted only 17 in his first term and none in 2018 the year before his attempted reelection, whereupon his commutations in this category skyrocketed to 28, 12, 49, and at least 40 this year once he had achieved reelection and became term limited.


Edwards legacy may moot LA Congress map tussle

Maybe all the controversy over reapportioning Louisiana’s congressional districts will become moot by the end of the decade, the latest national apportionment data suggest – which also increases the urgency of the incoming governor Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry to turn around the more than 100,000 population loss suffered under current Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Currently, the state is locked in a legal battle with special interests challenging the state’s last reapportionment. In a state where almost a third of the population identifies with at least some black ancestry, only one out of six Congressional districts has a majority-minority composition. Plaintiffs argue there should be two, and with some legal backing to their side the process continues that for now rests in the hands of the state but which could be decided by the federal judiciary.

But whatever comes from this, which likely won’t confirm the present map or rely on a new until 2026, it may then only apply for that and the next two elections. Because according to a group researching reapportionment, after 2030 Louisiana may be entitled only to five seats in the House of Representatives.


Set rates to curb BC property tax hike temptation

Not only will the start of 2024 greet Bossier City with a decision whether and how to extend the city’s public-private partnership with Manchac Consulting, but also a chance to signal to a beleaguered citizenry that holds taxing decision-making power that its days of splurging on questionable spending priorities are over and the consequences mitigated.

Until recently for two decades, an out-of-control City Council majority, aided by past mayors, spent several hundred million dollars, with a couple hundred million of that – on a money-losing arena, a parking garage for a landlord that went into receivership, on a high-tech office building that never lived up to inflated promises, on a road to nowhere, and for other less grandiose schemes – going to what charitably might be called questionable priorities, but perhaps more realistically can be described as wasted and unneeded. Debt owed at the end of 2022 was almost $435 million and has left residents with the highest per capita debt of any city in Louisiana at just under $7,000 each.

Operating monies as well show a pattern of dubious use. Besides the Manchac contract, the city subsidizes tennis playing and out-of-towner use of parks at residents’ expense. And a new hybrid, potentially giving away to the Port of Caddo-Bossier a water distribution facility unless an unlikely chain of events occurs to compensate fully the city, is an unforced error looming over the city for decades to come. Meanwhile, many city employees can’t receive pay raises in an era of higher inflation, or retired firefighters get stiffed on the city contributing to their health insurance premiums due to overbearing debt and poor current spending choices.


Christmas, 2023

This column publishes every Monday through Friday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, Dec. 25 being Christmas Day, I invite you to explore this link.