It wouldn’t be northwest Louisiana electoral politics if intrigue hasn’t engulfed Caddo Parish offices and apathy didn’t reign across the river in Bossier Parish.
Elections this fall for parish positions in Caddo feature spirited competition. In the case of the Parish Commission, this came from a combination of some members reaching terms limitations and the increasingly wacky policy direction to which the body has swerved. In recent months, it decided it may shovel $48 million to help a private developer, stupidly decided to limit the number of payday lenders, and engaged in bad theater by an immature walkout over whether the parish should give money to private organizations, which may have prompted more interest in posts on it.
It led to some interesting matchups, often instigated by retread candidates and former elected officials, after qualifying. Reviewing the term-limited seats, in District 1, former congressional candidate Patrick Harrington will square off against former Oil City mayor and retiring Commission Clerk Todd Hopkins, with newcomer Ken Brown as well; all are Republicans. District 4 features James Carstensen, a former Libertarian who ran for Shreveport City Council last year, up against John-Paul Young, son of Democrat Juvenile Judge Paul Young, and Christopher David; all are Republicans. District 11 has another former Libertarian, Parker Ward who has run for several offices including mayor, facing off against Ed Lazarus; both are Republicans.
Some incumbents drew opponents as well. Democrat former commissioner Ken Epperson wants his old seat back against Democrat Louis Johnson in District 12, and in District 6 Democrat Lynn Cawthorne, under indictment for money laundering, received a challenge from Democrat Steffon Jones. Also, District 8’s and the GOP’s Mike Middleton will retire after a term, but Republican former Shreveport mayoral candidate Jim Taliaferro slid unopposed into his seat.
Most interestingly, Democrat former Shreveport City Councilor and former state Rep. Roy Burrell decided to give his political career a third act. He gained the District 5 seat unopposed after Democrat incumbent Jerald Bowman opted out. All other incumbents avoided opponents.
None of these results will change the even split between Republicans and Democrats that exists currently. Only the District 10 race can do that, where incumbent Republican Mario Chavez will face Democrat Quinton Aught, who narrowly lost last year the race for Shreveport City Council in that area. The demographics of the district actually are a bit less favorable for Aught than those he encountered were last year, so Chavez should hang on to keep the same partisan balance on the Commission.
As always, GOP Sheriff Steve Prator drew challengers he should bury, including the hapless District 8 constable Democrat Eric Hatfield, who in office has endured negative financial audits, a deputy in trouble with the law, the Legislature passing a special law to curtail the powers of his office, and a trouncing by Prator in 2015. But, if he actually got forced into a runoff this time, it might come from the presence of lawyer and Democrat activist Hersy Jones, Jr., who once ran for mayor and also violated legal canons that earned him disbarment.
Now hop east across the Red to Bossier Parish. Long known for a citizenry not particularly interested in local politics (save perhaps the School Board) because its members disproportionately came from Shreveport and/or work there or are transients stationed at Barksdale Air Force and the like, Police Jury and executive elections there don’t feature much competition except when a seat opens up.
2019 proved no exception. Republican Sheriff Julian Whittington received no challenge, and only two incumbents drew one. District 4’s Norman Craig, a Republican who won a special election last year to take the seat will have a rematch with the candidate he vanquished last year, the GOP’s John Ed Jorden. District 2’s Republican Glenn Benton drew token opposition in Libertarian William Wittmer. All other incumbents got a free ride back into office.
However, three chose not to run for reelections. Freddy Shewmake and Wanda Bennett, one just on one side of 80 and the other on the other side, decided retirement was in order. While District 3 had five Republicans sign up to replace Bennett, District 9 actually has a white Republican versus black Democrat contest (of note is that in these races, there is running 16 white Republicans – all but one male – one white male Democrat, one black male independent, one white male Libertarian, and one black male Democrat), but newcomer Republican Jason Brown seems likely to defeat Democrat Charles Gray, who faced off against Shewmake in 2015, in a district with only a couple of hundred more white registrants than black ones.
Meanwhile, beset with controversy over some interesting driving habits, Republican Rick Avery called it jury career in District 6. With two Republicans vying to replace him, in all likelihood when the dust settles Bossier will have a jury of 10 Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent, making it a leading candidate to be called the most politically conservative parish in Louisiana.