Invited by the Shreveport City Council faction backing Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins to appoint a fill-in to their liking, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards obliged, reshaping the course of city government and boosting his ally Perkins’ flagging chances at reelection next year.
When GOP former Councilor James Flurry, almost always a Perkins opponent, resigned his City Council District E last month, the generally anti-Perkins bloc of Republicans Grayson Boucher and John Nickelson and Democrat LeVette Fuller lost its majority. With just three of six seated voted, earlier this month on a tie vote it failed to put its preferred candidate into the seat of the Republican-leaning district.
This tossed the decision to Edwards, who wasn’t crass enough to tab a Democrat, but who did pluck a campaign contributor in tune with the other Council Democrats – Jerry Bowman, James Green, and Tabatha Taylor. No party Alan Jackson got his official nod just before yesterday’s Council meeting and in doing so Edwards provided a bit of irony if not outright hypocrisy: after deeming important having two minority-majority congressional districts in Louisiana because of the state’s racial proportions in population, Edwards picked a black man to represent a majority white district.
Additionally a contributor to a past failed candidacy of Perkins’ ally Shanté Wells, Jackson, who had no other political experience in or out of elective office and hadn’t volunteered for the earlier Council solicitation, paid off immediately for the mayor’s agenda. Having endorsed his Council backers in an effort to trigger a 13 percent pay raise citywide whereas his panel opponents wanted to limit that to public safety workers, Perkins won out when Jackson provided the fourth vote to move the package forward to its final disposition at the next meeting.
Perhaps unaware Jackson would join the festivities, the opposing trio went AWOL for the meeting, which would have sidelined the ordinances designed to implement the raise. But also, by not showing up they didn’t have to oppose formally most of these (presumably having the option of trying to amend some to limit the hike to public safety personnel), which likely would raise the ire of many city employees even as serious questions abound about whether the city in the long run could afford a $20 million, as opposed to $7 million, increase in expenditures.
Looking ahead, this selection infuses needed aid to Perkins’ bid for another term. The opposing bloc in the first half of his term stymied some Perkins initiatives and clipped his wings on some embarrassing issues. After his disastrous U.S. Senate defeat, Perkins has laid relatively low, although his new Council majority also sent along a controversial Perkins decision six months ago to award a waste pickup contract to someone with no business infrastructure to do it, much less any experience that the previous majority bloc had opposed.
Now with a Council majority, Perkins faces fewer headwinds in passing his agenda with less Council impetus to investigate his actions. Boucher and Nickelson now find themselves with little influence, but perhaps the biggest loser is Fuller, who began their terms as the most leftist member on the body on paper yet often voted with the Republicans on matters of fiscal responsibility and ethics.
This could have positioned her as Perkins’ prime opponent next year, by giving the electorate of majority Democrats one of their own, and black also in a majority-black electorate, as an alternative to him yet who also could pick up some non-Democrat support with her council record. That could prove crucial in making a runoff with Perkins, where majority GOP support could bag her the win.
However, Fuller damaged her chances when her partying led to a conviction, and these fell further when Republican Caddo Parish Commissioner and former mayoral candidate Jim Taliaferro announced he would challenge Perkins, diminishing the likelihood that Fuller could make a runoff against those two. She may wish to claim a safe second term and then gun for a potentially open mayor’s office in 2026.
By no means does the Edwards selection make the coast clear for a Perkins second term, but it does shed more light creating less gloom at the end of that tunnel for that possibility.