Because behind the question of whether somebody runs is “why.” You run only for a reason, the most of trite of which is you want to win. Even though incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy has good polling numbers and lots of dough to fend off any challenger, you can’t win if you don’t play, and maybe something weird would happen that could allow Perkins to win.
However, that’s subject to cost-benefit calculations. Simply, you run if you think you’ll get more out of it than what it costs you, politically. Part of the benefits come from winning, but tempered by your expectancy of victory. In Perkins’ case, unless deluded or unquestioningly taking some very bad advice, he must know his chances aren’t great.
Some of his costs won’t be great. He doesn’t have to leave his current office to do so, and state Democrats will have motivation to back him. He allows the party to run a quality candidate – meaning he will attain at least 40 percent of the vote and has a chance to go as high as 45 percent – backed by sufficient resources to get enough of the base of the party to the polls hitting the button for him to achieve such numbers and in the process reminding them why they vote for the party. Major parties must do this for high-profile offices on a regular basis to remain competitive with any chance to win such offices over time.
He also brings some peace to state Democrats. Even as its registered base is majority black, the party has a long history to this day of wealthy white donors and power brokers calling the shots, to the point that it has backed only one black candidate ever from start to finish for Senate or governor. In a sense, Perkins becomes an affirmative action candidate for the party to tout that it actually does care about and support black candidates for the most important offices.
But Perkins risks a substantial cost with this run – reelection in 2022. How a Senate run makes him more vulnerable begins with his background. A Shreveport native, Perkins first attended West Point and served in the military. Upon discharge – which qualified him for disability payments that Perkins describes as service-related on his disclosure forms required by law for his mayoral run and service – he obtained a Harvard law degree. Briefly prior to his running for mayor he worked for a politically-connected Democrat-friendly law firm, earning at least $25,000 in a short period from it (and who likely will donate to his campaign).
To that point, Perkins had next to no political involvement. While registered to vote in Caddo Parish in 2007, he never did until his own election. His first public political act, perhaps setting the stage for two-plus years of controversy, just before leaving law school involved signing a petition supporting the nomination of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which he then immediately repudiated.
Then he shows up to run for mayor, without so much as even having a homestead in Louisiana (he maintains one where once stationed in Georgia) and claimed residency at his mother’s. Presenting himself as a blank slate bordered by his Army service amid claims of youthful vigor, openness, and change, as a black Democrat in a majority-black constituency he cajoled enough voters to fill his vessel with what they wanted and abandoned the black Democrat incumbent who had overseen Shreveport’s continued decline.
Out of the gate, Perkins immediately made missteps in executing the duties of his office. Due to apparent cronyism, he caused the city to spend much more on insurance than necessary. He also tried to bill the city for campaign-related expenses. Trying to put his own people on a city board, he ran afoul of the law. Eventually, the culture of mistrust he sowed led to voters defeating three city tax renewals.
And he found plenty of opportunities to make controversial policy decisions. His ham-handed approach to selecting a new permanent police chief ultimately had him repudiating the decision made by a panel he created. He backed the city spending large sums to subsidize a pie-in-the-sky development scheme that ultimately the City Council rejected. When Republican Pres. Donald Trump visited the area in part to hold a political rally, contrary to federal law Perkins initially wanted to withhold any city first responder assistance until forced to reverse under public pressure.
More recently, he signed the city onto a welfare entitlement program paid out of private funds that gives people a fixed periodic sum on top of, not supplanting, government benefits. He also issued a masking order overturned by the judiciary.
In short, he has given plenty of ammunition to opponents, both on ethics and policy, to use against him not just for a Senate run, but also for reelection. And this doesn’t even count the most recent controversy of alleged multiple drunk driving stops over the past weeks supposedly covered up by city and police officials, reportedly stemming from the behavioral condition related to his service discharge.
If the multiple DWI stops receive some kind of verification, that likely ends his political career, not just because it’s bad and illegal behavior, but also because its cover-up would signal corrupt behavior under his watch involving him, and because it suggests he has mental health issues that lead to making poor judgments. Neither commends itself to serving in elective office.
Chances are the Cassidy campaign won’t draw upon this, if any of it actually happened, because there are already plenty of holes below the waterline before the Perkins campaign even sets sail. But there are political forces in Shreveport who want to defeat him in 2022, and the Senate campaign gives them a free shot at publicizing these allegations.
Either this is no more than rumor without basis in fact, or Perkins somehow he thinks he can keep a lid on the scandal and/or weather the storm if it were revealed credibly. If the latter, he almost certainly has miscalculated, because these things have a way of coming out in high-profile contests.
Maybe Perkins thinks having all his negatives hashed out now might reduce their potency for 2022, but they might as easily poison the well earlier and more thoroughly. Or perhaps at a subconscious level he knows the gig is up in 2022 and so this gives him a chance for more glory and publicity before becoming a private citizen approaching 40 with essentially no background in the private sector, paving the way for some kind of future employment in or around the woeld of politics.
Regardless, Perkins thinks a Senate run now makes his political prospects better off in the future. He’s more likely to find disappointment.