Let’s just say the timing of the old Bossier political establishment isn’t great this legislative election cycle.
The Benton courthouse gang and major portions of the Bossier Parish Police Jury and Bossier City Council prefer compliant state legislators who won’t work in support of forcing accountability and limited government onto local governments and will carry their water to milk the state as much as possible for their preferred interests. By those metrics, a couple of area legislators have provoked the establishment’s ire.
As a result of reapportionment, six districts will represent substantial portions of Bossier Parish from 2024 on. One is a new House district that extends south of the parish line and three others involve unquestionably fiscal and social conservative incumbents: GOP state Reps. Danny McCormick and Raymond Crews and Republican state Sen. Robert Mills. In their initial elections, both Crews and Mills faced establishment-backed candidates (brothers, in fact), but won.
However, in the minds of the Bossier establishment as far as two other consistent conservatives go, they crossed a line. GOP state Rep. Dodie Horton upset the bunch when she successfully brought legislation to put mild accountability controls on members of the Board of Commissioners to the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District. The Board is a patronage sink for Bossier governments that spent tens of thousands of dollars in fruitless legal expenses and more on grandiose, unrealistic plans.
The establishment coalesced around area businessman Republican Chris Turner (no relation to Republican state Rep. Chris Turner a few dozen miles to the east), campaign finance records show, to oppose Horton. In the latter third of 2022 he raised $119,000 and spent almost half to introduce himself to District 9 voters (Cypress Black Bayou Commissioner Walter O. Bigby was one who gave the maximum, and early, to Turner).
However, Horton raised funds throughout 2022 and ended the first quarter of the year with almost twice as much as Turner had at the end of the previous year (Horton, who is not compelled by law to do so, filed a disclosure form through Apr. 7; legislative candidates legally must file one for all of this year to date in September). In contrast to Turner, whose main sources of funds came from business entities, Horton relied more on individuals, political action committees, and fellow elected officials.
She may well have expected this broader base of support, not only because she is a two-term incumbent but also as she has backed, and scored, big legislative wins. She is the sponsor of HB 466, which would ban classroom or extracurricular expressions extraneous to educating students that focus on sexual activity and gives parents control over the names and pronouns that refer to their children, a similar bill to one that reached the floor of the House last year. This year, it heads to the Senate with a better-then-even chance of passing into law.
She also has a record of fiscal conservatism to go along with social conservatism, giving her the past term a score of 95 on the Louisiana Legislature Log voting scorecard (higher scores, with 100 the maximum, denote greater conservatism/reformism), issue preferences very much in line with her somewhat-redrawn district. She’s part of the Louisiana Conservative Caucus which, to date, has forced the Legislature to pare back unwise spending in this year’s budget, as well as the Louisiana Freedom Caucus that focuses on a conservative agenda. Her record makes it difficult for Turner to claim he could vote any more in line with district preferences, and he has no record of accomplishment like Horton’s.
Publicizing her work and success on HB 466 alone can negate any claim to better representation that Turner could make, plus she can draw upon a long record of district service not only while in office but as a legislative assistant before that (although reapportionment changed the boundaries somewhat). Nonetheless, expect the Bossier establishment to do its best, if it can’t beat her, to make her work hard as a warning to other politicians not to oppose it in future battles.
However, the establishment really is upset with term-limited Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, one of the most visible conservatives in the Legislature and vying for the dramatically reshaped Senate District 31, which has extended its territory focused around Natchitoches northward into southern Bossier, as well as Caddo, Parishes. He committed the sin of backing certain insurgent candidates in Bossier City elections in 2021 and has political influence in northwest Louisiana beyond his office that threatens the old status quo.
A disruptor like this the good old boys don’t want in power, and so they – allied with the almost-extinct big-government white Democrat machines extending south to Natchitoches – found perhaps the best candidate possible to put up against him, former Bossier Parish Community College and Northwestern State University basketball coach Mike McConathy. He checks off important boxes: blank slate but lots of goodwill from his sporting career, pals with the likes of former Bossier Parish Democrat-then-Republican state Rep. Billy Montgomery (who ended his political career as a functionary for Bossier Parish government), Democrat former state Sen. Don Kelly, and RINO-like state Sen. Louie Bernard (the incumbent who Seabaugh chased from attempting reelection; all three personally or through entities they control have donated to McConathy), and able to sound conservative on plenty of issues.
But, if anything, Seabaugh also can out-conservative his opponent (his Log score for this term is 93) and demonstrate even more legislative effectiveness than can Horton. He can remind voters how in 2018 he helped to prevent extending part of the 2016 sales tax increase that has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars since and was a leader in passing the admittedly-mild 2021 tort reforms. More recently, he leads the Freedom Caucus and has a hand in building support for the several conservative bills it has backed and the right-sized budget. So far, these have advanced relentlessly. Finally, he’s picked up endorsements from gubernatorial favorite Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and the area’s popular congressman, Republican Rep. Mike Johnson.
And, in keeping with the history of northwest Louisiana Senate contests, Seabaugh has plenty of resources at his disposal. McConathy did well to raise nearly $120,000 in the last four months of 2022, mostly from large donors from the Natchitoches region although he spent almost half of it, but Seabaugh pulled in over a quarter-million bucks in 2022 and has approaching $400,000 available.
So, in both cases, the Bossier establishment politicians will be asking voters to take chances on a pair of newcomers with not much initial name recognition and no record in place in exchange for two well-funded staunch conservatives with records to prove that in two of the most conservative districts in the state who this year have made consequential, highly-publicized and odds-on successful efforts to advance a conservative agenda, just in time for elections. That makes for a tall order for anybody to beat either.
Still, Bossier’s good old boys just can’t lay down on this and will give it their best shot. Thus, expect spirited contests that will ensure full employment of area and state political consultants and dollars aplenty for local media.