Where is the Kevin Lincoln for Shreveport and New Orleans?
Republican Lincoln will assume the mayoralty of Stockton, CA next month. A native, he joined the Marines, rising to become part of the elite unit guarding the president on helicopter trips. Out of the service, back home he became a pastor, then challenged incumbent Democrat Michael Tubbs. (Technically, the office is nonpartisan, but the candidates are widely labelled as above.)
Elected at 26 after a term on the city council, Tubbs was the left’s rock star. A majority-minority electorate gave him 70 percent of the vote to become the city’s first black mayor, whereupon he began implementing a progressive agenda, largely funded by hitting up starry-eyed leftist philanthropies. Since Stockton has a council-manager system of government (the city council appoints a professional manager to run most city functions), the amount of money he raised for these programs far exceeded his austere official city budget.
A number of national elite organizations heaped awards and praise on him, and a fawning documentary aired about him, where he could be seen on the hustings and in his free time out swilling wine with his rainbow-colored Generation X staffers. He outspent Lincoln, who is part black and part Hispanic, roughly 10-to-1.
And then lost reelection by about 10 percentage points, because the electorate of a blue-collar city like Stockton – with a bit over 300,000 people – wasn’t impressed with his jet-setting appeal. The left, naturally, blamed his defeat not on his image and policies, but on a web site whose critics alleged ran inaccurate stories about Tubbs.
Perhaps most controversially, Tubbs backed the idea of a universal basic income, which has various forms but the one he stumped for would give a recurring cash gift to low-income recipients regardless of the amount of government benefits they received. He even started a national organization to publicize the idea, sucking in a couple of dozen mayors who pledged to implement his “guaranteed income” model, which now could serve as a comfortable landing spot for him after his rude rejection by Stocktonians.
An early adopter of the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income plan was Shreveport Democrat Adrian Perkins. New Orleans Democrat LaToya Cantrell tagged along somewhat later. Both have in common presiding over declining cities with not much clue as to how to reverse that. By the end of the month, the official census numbers will come out showing both cities losing population over the last few years.
Perkins will use money donated to the organization, and has insisted no public dollars will go towards the program. Despite the splash Perkins made announcing his participation five months ago, a city spokesman said implementation had not proceeded and had no timetable as to when that would commence. Multiple queries about funding and implementation made to Cantrell’s office went unanswered.
There seems little hope to rid New Orleans of Cantrell or a clone for the foreseeable future. Last month’s elections confirmed that henceforth every elected executive or legislative office in the coterminous city and parish governments would be a Democrat. The motivated who can leave will, leaving the city financially to implode and hemorrhaging residents on a scale seen in Detroit or Pittsburgh.
However, hope exists for Shreveport. Last mayoral election, two Republican candidates received 35 percent of the vote, and some portion of the electorate that leans that way foolishly trusted Perkins with their vote in the general election. The GOP has had a difficult time getting it together in Shreveport, not even offering a candidate in 2014 and backing one in over his head in 2010.
The 2014 contest, along with this summer’s result in Monroe where no party Friday Ellis upset Democrat former mayor Jamie Mayo might hold promise as a model. Then, a number of Republicans rallied around no party Victoria Provenza, a political neophyte then as was Ellis, that pushed her into a runoff with then-former Caddo Parish School District superintendent (and also never having held elective office) Ollie Tyler.
She lost handily, for two reasons. First, she was a decent, but not great candidate. Secondly and more importantly, the timing wasn’t right. The electorate hadn’t soured on an incumbent as had Mayo in almost two decades of stagnation – and Perkins is doing through his quixotic agenda both as mayor and for his own personal political advancement. Plus. Ellis could draw upon the political resources who aided his wife Ashley, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, in her campaign.
Put up somebody as a no party candidate with no history in elective office but who has worked behind the scenes in assisting campaigns and has a successful track record outside of government, hope to consolidate the votes of non-Democrats, and hope to meet the damaged Perkins in a runoff, and Shreveport might find itself with a far better chance of reversing its slide a quarter-century in the making than hewing to its same course. The first step, of course, is for its Kevin Lincoln to emerge.