SADOW: Sleepy Bossier Board Races May Signal Big Change

As has become typical recently in Bossier Parish elections, the only real action to shake up the norm will happen for this fall’s election at its southern end – and with probable consequences for state legislative elections next year.

In Bossier City elections last year, with only two district City Council jobs contested but the northern-most providing just a last-minute candidate unable to resist Republican Councilor Vince Maggio’s assumption of the job, the only real action occurred in the southern-most District 1 where voters dumped long-time Republican incumbent Scott Irwin in favor of Republican then-School Board member Shane Cheatham, only to have Cheatham resign that triggered another competitive election to put Republican Brian Hammons in office. The pattern of somnambulant races in all but the southern reaches continued in 2022.

This year, School Board seats are the only major offices up for grabs in state and local elections for the parish and, as typical in a parish without term limits for any such office, continuity ruled qualifying. Ten incumbents will run again, with only one facing a challenge: elected last year when Cheatham had resigned the seat upon his Council election, District 11 Republican Robert Bertrand with square off again against, this time, independent Miki Royer, who ran as a Democrat last time. The change in party label likely won’t make much difference as he defeated her nearly three-to-one in the special election.

One certain newcomer, independent Craton Cochran in District 7 who will succeed nearly quarter-century incumbent Republican J.W. Slack who called it quits in his mid-80s, will take his post unopposed. Perhaps fittingly as this is Bossier, his family isn’t a newcomer to elective politics; his father Democrat Jimmy Cochran is the over quarter-century District 7 member of the Police Jury.

That leaves the southern-most District 12 as the only contest without an incumbent running and with competition. Loan originator and small businessman Erick Falting, an ally of Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler who has built his strongest base of support in south Bossier City, will do electoral battle with Democrat small businesswoman Zandra Ashley. After her husband Darren ran a distant third as a Democrat in the race Hammons would win and given the district’s Republican lean, Falting is the big favorite. It doesn’t help Zandra Ashley’s chances that she publicly supported the idea of Bossier Parish high school athletes protesting against alleged racial injustice where the district and the public traditionally have frowned upon that.

Yet the most significant development in all of this came from that district’s incumbent, Republican Dennis Bamburg, announcing he would retire from the seat, but probably not from politics he hinted in a social media farewell message. This could signal that he will contest the state House District 5 post next year.

As a result of reapportionment, the locus of HD 5 shifted from Caddo to Bossier Parish, absorbing chunks from the latter in HD 9 of Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton. About half of the district’s voting age population will come from south Bossier, giving a candidate from that area a leg up.

It would make sense for Bamburg to desist from another term if he intends to seek the HD 5 position just to stay another year in it. Unlikely to have drawn an opponent, it would not in essence have given him an extra year to campaign, and without Board duties this frees time for him to concentrate on a state lower chamber run.

In an election cycle that will return almost all the same faces to the Board and likely barely change its partisan composition (to only nine Republicans, an additional independent and still the one Democrat), this might be the most significant news out of it.

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