And now we know at least part of the political agenda Democrats on the Caddo Parish Commission had on their minds when they muscled onto it a Democrat replacement in a thoroughly Republican district earlier this year.
This week, the panel will present reapportionment alternatives for parish residents to view. In the near future, it will vote on lines for fall elections and for 2027 as well.
We think the near future. That’s because the Commission already violated the parish charter (as well as its own articulated criteria for reapportionment, although that was a work session document and not formally passed as a resolution) when it failed to make its deadline of completing that work by the end of last year, even as it held public meetings for input to the process months earlier. Of course, the clock is ticking on finishing the process with qualifying for offices Aug. 8 but with a deadline about a month earlier to start signature-gathering for petitions to qualify.
But until the end of the year, the Commission had only six Democrats seated out of a dozen members. Then, Republican Jim Taliaferro resigned his seat to take office as a Shreveport city councilor. Days later, the now-majority Democrats appointed Democrat Ron Cothran in his place, despite the fact that the district had a long history of voting for Republicans (and a previous GOP candidate for the seat had applied) and its registration totals showed Republican registrants at a near-majority and 18 percentage points more Republicans than Democrats.
With seven Democrats now assuredly on the Commission, now it has decided belatedly to finish reapportionment. And just in time to consider a couple of plans that create seven majority-minority districts with black majorities where blacks comprise 48 percent of parish population and whites 43 percent. M/M districts infrequently produce a winner who isn’t a Democrat.
In some ways the process and controversy it brought with it echoes what went on with the Caddo Parish School Board, which last year went through it in time for its elections last fall. The Board hired Kenner-based Data Center LLC which initially produced only one plan to the consternation of the minority Republicans then on the Board. The firm then produced a slightly different version still retaining the seven M/M districts which won final approval, with all seven Democrats in support joined by three Republicans.
At the time, the firm’s principal Cedric Floyd – a former Jefferson Parish School Board member who lost reelection in 2018 in part because of an ultimately successful legal action against him and who historically pushed for maximal numbers of M/M districts for that board – claimed the original plan was the best possible as it deviated the least, he argued, from the now-past map. Perhaps learning from that, Data Center also has produced two similar plans for the Commission, which also will use the firm – one of which looks little different from the Board’s plan containing seven M/M districts and the other which takes the new M/M district, District 10, from a narrow black majority to one well over 60 percent.
However, some commissioners decided to fight fire with fire. Republicans teamed up with local firm Precision Cartographics to produce an alternative map for consideration that includes only six M/M districts.
Good luck with that. Expect the majority Democrats to go along with the more extreme M/M plan, because it would mitigate the potential for their getting blindsided as did their counterparts on the Board. Last fall, Republican Katie McLain managed to win the Board’s M/M District 10 spot to keep that body split, so Commission Democrats will want to nudge the scale more in their direction.
And with seven votes in hand, they’ll be able to construct this gerrymander, all courtesy of their disregarding of the Charter in a naked power play.