SADOW: Perkins’ First Stone Comes From His Glass House

This won’t go well for Shreveport Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins to win reelection if this is his opening salvo against new challenger Democrat state Sen. Greg Tarver.

Tarver formally announced his candidacy yesterday, to which Perkins responded pithily by questioning whether Tarver was running for mayor of Shreveport, because Perkins said he didn’t live in the city. This constitutes a veiled attempt to question Tarver’s commitment to the city versus his own fortunes that serves as a specter casting doubt over his overall character, playing to Tarver’s checkered past.

Residency has both legal and political dimensions. Tarver has been bedding down with his wife at a residence on 14 acres outside of any city limits, and outside of his senate district, but he doesn’t own any part of it nor is he registered to vote there. Instead, he says he pays his wife rent, claims himself domiciled at the address of his business, inside both the city and district, and is registered to vote there.

Louisiana law allows for that, and indeed statute requires that for a municipality mayor that the candidate for that office “at the time of qualification … shall have been domiciled and actually resided for at least the immediately preceding year in the municipality.” This deviates slightly from the city charter, which declares that “[a]t the time of his qualification for election, the mayor shall be … a resident of the City of Shreveport.” But given the jurisprudence that for election qualification and voting “domicile” supplants “residence” and that charters may extend into areas not covered by statute or the Constitution but cannot contradict those, the same way in which Tarver qualifies to represent District 39 also makes him a Shreveport “resident” qualified to run for mayor.

That is the legal dimension. The political dimension operates quite differently, with Perkins trying to cast aspersions about Tarver’s commitment to the city. For his part, Tarver claims he might move in with his daughter inside the city limits, but he and his wife plan on establishing a homestead within the city soon as they wish to downsize from her current property.

Yet with this line of attack Perkins introduces a measure of irony into the whole issue, as four years ago a major question surrounding Perkins was his actual connection to the city. Back then, he hardly had lived any of his adult life in the city, registered to vote at his mother’s place but never had voted there, and had owned property out of state. Metaphorically, it was if he had parachuted in just months before the election, having lived out of state for nearly two decades, maybe not there recently but now here in time to save Shreveport from political, economic, cultural, you name it, disaster.

And while he has hung out for four years now, Tarver still could gig him on this account: Perkins’ disastrous U.S. Senate attempt a couple of years back, making it appear to all the world he wanted to run out halfway through his mayoral job to grasp a shinier object. Whereas Tarver can display the half-century-plus he has lived in the area operating a family business over a century old, with much of that in public service without desire to do anything else.

This isn’t a stone Perkins wants to peg Tarver with, tossing from his glass house as he does. That he led off what no doubt from both sides will become a rather negative campaign with this illustrates that with Tarver in the race what otherwise would have been a tough but manageable road to reelection suddenly has become much rockier and problematic.

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