SADOW: Losing That Court Case Was Fatal To Perkins’ Campaign

Regardless of what happens in the next week or so, the Shreveport Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins campaign has suffered perhaps a fatal blow with his disqualification from his reelection bid.

That attempt can come back from the grave as Perkins has appealed the decision by Republican 1st District Judge Brady O’Callaghan to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He shouldn’t hold his breath on this, however, as that court only months ago ruled in a similar case to disqualify a candidate who, like Perkins, made a false statement on his filing when he failed to indicate his declared homestead address also was where he was registered to vote. Perkins owns a homestead but his registration as of when he qualified remained at the same address he has had since he first registered to vote coming out of high school.

O’Callaghan drew upon this recent precedent, where the court noted the law demanded accuracy and that inaccuracy meant disqualification. Yet a noticeable difference does exist between the cases, in that in the earlier case the inaccuracy also hid the fact that the candidate did not reside in the jurisdiction of the office contested when such candidates are required to have domicile in it while Perkins at both addresses still would have domicile within Shreveport.

Perkins also argued, unsuccessfully, drawing upon a case in another circuit, that his attestation was an error insubstantial under statute as elections should provide as robust as possible opportunity for selection by voters, and that this superseded the Second Circuit’s interpretation which didn’t directly address the merits of the his case. O’Callaghan didn’t buy this, observing that his circuit court’s decision explicitly included honest mistakes as reason for disqualification in order to protect the integrity of the process.

Since he followed Second Circuit precedent, it seems hard to imagine that it would overrule, forcing Perkins to apply to the state Supreme Court for relief, which expedited should come up with a ruling within a week. But what if, for example, the Court went in the other direction, like pointing out the absurdity of disqualifying someone over a typographical error and taking from that such an absolutist stance that would exempt such mistakes as Perkins’?

This would put Perkins’ candidacy back in business – but not without severe, perhaps fatal, damage. With the election only just over a hundred days away as of when the challenge was filed, two-plus weeks is an eternity in campaign time. In this window, the campaign apparatus comes to a standstill and potential donors hold up not knowing if their dollars would do any good.

Worse, activists working on the campaign and those possible donors become open to solicitations from other campaigns. Some of the former may jump ship and some of the latter may commit resources elsewhere in this interval. It also likely will take a toll on attentive voters not already solidly committed to Perkins. Never having a reason to doubt his candidacy that they now do have, allowing themselves to investigate the merits of other candidates may push some to jump off the train if they like another enough, while others might conclude with such a mistake Perkins simply doesn’t fit the profile to remain mayor and they join them.

How big of an impact these defections would have will depend upon what the other candidates do during this window of opportunity. Few would be expected to head in the direction of the one furthest from Perkins on issue preferences, Republican former councilor Tom Arceneaux, and not many more would go to Democrat state Sen. Greg Tarver’s camp, who is much more aligned with Perkins on issues but who has had a well-publicized running spat with Perkins since before the last election and is a factional opponent among local Democrats.

No party Caddo Parish Commissioner Mario Chavez can make some hay here while the sun shines. He seems committed to raising much money and aggressively campaigning, so if he makes a big effort with appeals on the basis of competence and street-level issues such crime reduction – keeping in background the more conservative issue preferences he expressed in his time in office until recently that would make for a tough sell in a majority Democrat, majority black electorate – in the next few days he could peel away a chunk of Perkins voters for good.

The biggest beneficiary should be Democrat Councilor LeVette Fuller, because she is pretty close to Perkins on the issues but can point to a better track record of responsible governance, having opposed Perkins on several measures that appeared rife with cronyism and wastefulness. Yet by all indications she jumped into the contest at the last minute after eschewing reelection to the Council – she apparently still was building out a campaign infrastructure only last week and had almost nothing in the campaign kitty as of the end of last year – which would leave her spectacularly unprepared to jump at this chance. If she’s a cypher throughout this interval, this minimizes the possible damage to a restarted Perkins candidacy.

A lot can happen in a week, and depending on what that is even if Perkins gets off the hook on his disqualification his chance at reelection may have become doomed.

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