SADOW: Few Dramatic Northwest Louisiana Races, But Big News Nonetheless

Drama appeared in few races this weekend in Bossier and Caddo Parishes, but what few had it produced a lot of it.

Somnambulant Bossier Parish contests – what few occurred in following the generally apathetic attitudes of its citizenry – did result in the dumping of appointed Norman Craig in District 4 in favor of John Ed Jorden, while incumbent Glenn Benton easily turned back a challenge in District 2, Chris Marsiglia picked up the open District 6 seat and Philip Rogers and Jim Viola headed to a runoff for the vacant District 3 seat. All are Republicans, which will leave the GOP with a comfortable 9-2-1 majority.

The real action came with the District 36 state Senate contest. Four years ago, Republican Ryan Gatti ran complaining about tax increases. Squeaking in, he immediately voted to raise taxes and spent the next four years assisting his old chum Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in growing state government and thwarting tort reform that threatened the amount of lucre he acquires in his full-time job as a trial lawyer.

Voters put his political career on life support last weekend when GOP challenger businessman Robert Mills racked up 48 percent of the vote against his 36 percent, with the remainder garnered by Democrat Mattie Preston. Mills will win the runoff, but not going away.

That’s because Gatti does well with Democrats. The only precincts that Gatti came close to Mills or won in Bossier have black or near-black majorities. Mills went well over 50 percent there where black registration is about 15 percent and a little less well in Bienville and Claiborne Parish precincts where black registrations are in the 25-30 percent range. Gatti won the Webster Parish boxes, which has about 35 percent black registration.

Thus, Gatti will get a good chunk of Preston’s vote, and also working in his favor is that Bossier, which has almost 60 percent of the district’s voters, had turnout several points lower than in the rural districts. Still, it’s too much of a gap to overcome so Mills should ease his way in.

Finally, Bossier voters in most precincts easily swept away an almost-doubling of property taxes for the Cypress-Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District. Given the lackadaisical arguments for the increase, it seemed predictable.

In Caddo Parish, Republican Steve Prator shunted aside a set of challengers (one a repeat) to start his third decade in office. Republicans Todd Hopkins, John Paul Young, and Ed Lazarus claimed open seats for Parish Commission (Districts 1, 4, and 11, respectively), while the GOP’s Mario Chavez held onto the only one with a Democrat challenger to leave the body with an even split of Democrats and Republicans.

The real action came from the political left. Former commissioner Democrat Ken Epperson will become the future District 12 commissioner, having concluded his retirement had been unwarranted and dispatched his successor Democrat Louis Johnson. And despite being under federal indictment, Democrat Lynn Cawthorne retained his District 6 seat, but if convicted on felony charges next year that spot will come open again.

Of the few contested House contests in both parishes, only one went to a runoff. None changed the partisan composition of the chamber.

Those fireworks came in the Senate District 38 contest, defended by the eccentric Democrat John Milkovich, with his conspiracy theories and social conservatism out of step with his party’s zeitgeist but whose big government values and trial lawyer zeal while consistent with his party’s views were decidedly out of touch with his district’s. Those chickens came home to roost.

Last Saturday, he drew just 26 percent of the vote in barely outpacing an intra-party challenger. Neither together were enough to hold off Republican executive Barry Milligan from winning with 51 percent of the vote. The conservative district corrected its 2015 mistake, like its counterpart across the river appears poised to do so on Nov. 16.

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