Somebody thinks the Empire will strike back in Bossier City, and they’re willing to dump some money on trying to shame its elements into forestalling a scenario that could devolve into four years of chaos.
This week, a text messaging poll has circulated to city residents. After a hook question about the popularity of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards (who is beginning to face questions about his role in what increasing appears to be a coverup of the death of a motorist at the hands of the Louisiana State Police), the poll asks about the popularity of Republican Mayor-elect Tommy Chandler and whether respondents think the City Council shouldn’t block his appointment of Shane Cheatham as chief administrative officer.
The GOP’s Cheatham defeated outgoing Republican District 1 Councilor Scott Irwin this spring, but then resigned before taking the seat next week as Chandler’s pick for CAO. Things turned out better for other consistent allies of defeated incumbent Mayor Lo Walker – Republicans Jeff Free and David Montgomery plus Democrat Bubba Williams – as they returned to the Council, joined by newcomer Republican Vince Maggio, who shared supporters with Walker.
No-party Jeff Darby also remained, who over the past four years opposed Walker and Council majorities more often than any other member. In ousting another Walker ally, Republican Chris Smith will complete the lineup of, at present, four insiders against two not associated with the past regime.
Cheatham’s vote would have given Chandler strong leverage over the Council, as it takes five votes to override a veto. The new Council will address his vacancy in its first meeting next week, where a majority can pick a placeholder until an October election fills the seat. That appointee potentially would have a leg up to fill the entire term.
And whoever engaged the polling services by text, according to calls made to south Bossier City, thinks some shenanigans along these lines may come into play. Those calls from the same pollster besides the questions by text also ask respondents’ their views on whether the Council should slide Irwin right back in with the interim post and at the least securing a short-term veto-proof majority (Irwin formally has applied for it) The further implication from the line of questioning is that this reconstituted majority then would ace out Cheatham completely by refusing to approve his CAO appointment.
From a political perspective, this seems unlikely. First, four votes reject an appointee as assuredly as five, so a fix being in to reseat Irwin doesn’t matter. Secondly, if it does play out this way, this makes Cheatham available to run for the seat again, and while some voters may be turned off by Cheatham having campaigned for it then tossing aside voters’ wishes, others also might take offense that Irwin, after being drubbed two-to-one by Cheatham, would get back into office this way. Essentially, it would make Cheatham a big favorite if this scenario played out where Cheatham tries to get back the seat he surrendered and Irwin wanted to try again.
Finally, Chandler as mayor possesses a wide array of executive and administrative powers that, if used cagily, could make life miserable for councilors opposing him. Shooting down Cheatham would provoke that ire and create a ready-made opponent that could take the District 1 seat to make veto overrides far less likely.
Of course, over time the Council majorities have demonstrated they aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. Just in the past couple of months, the ruling clique showed complete ignorance about its own agenda requirements, contracting rules, and about government contracting trends in general, so it might lack the wisdom to make the optimal choice for its own political best interests. Additionally, the majority to come expected a Walker win leading to one of its own ascending to the mayoralty in 2025. With Chandler’s victory having upset those plans, ambitious councilors may wish to strike out at Chandler in every way possible in order to sabotage his chances at reelection.
This polling seems designed to publicize the possibility of this nuclear option, as a means of discouraging it from happening. But if the Council does pull this off against Chandler and Cheatham next week, consider it just the beginning of a scorched earth campaign that will damage the city’s ability to govern, to the benefit of a handful of long-time political insiders.