What We Need Is For Garret Graves To Run For Mayor-President In Baton Rouge

On Friday, the news hit that Rep. Garret Graves, whose Sixth Congressional District was morphed earlier this year into an unwinnable majority-black district that state senator Cleo Fields is a shoo-in to win this fall, won’t be running for re-election.

Graves’ statement, via BRProud.com

“Representing South Louisiana and serving in the United States Congress has been an incredible honor.  From the beginning and ever since, we have constantly emphasized that our decisions and actions are grounded in what’s best for Louisianians first and foremost. Our accomplishments confirm the steadfast commitment to this objective.

“After much input from constituents, consultation with supporters, consensus from family, and guidance from the Almighty, it is clear that running for Congress this year does not make sense.  It is evident that a run in any temporary district will cause actual permanent damage to Louisiana’s great representation in Congress. Campaigning in any of these districts now is not fair to any of the Louisianians who will inevitably be tossed into yet another district next year.

“The consequences of redistricting will affect Louisiana’s first opportunity in history to chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. This committee is the throttle for federal action on traffic, bridges, railroads and airports – and Louisiana priorities like ports and Mississippi River commerce, coastal and hurricane and flood protection, disaster response and recovery, national defense and Coast Guard, economic development and more. Admittedly, it is a serious disappointment to miss the historic opportunity to champion Louisiana’s priorities in this committee.

“This has been an amazing experience resulting in thousands of new friendships and unrivaled progress for the area we represent. In this divisive and politically-polarized environment, to receive over 80 percent of the vote in the last election confirms that we were getting it mostly right. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

“We remain committed to getting unjust Social Security penalties removed, finishing the duplication of benefits fix for remaining disaster victims and other priorities.  We will continue our superior constituent services, connecting Veterans to their deserved benefits, restoring Social Security earnings to retirees, fighting back a ravenous IRS, securing capital for growing businesses and delivering disaster assistance to flood and storm victims, among other priorities.”

What this signals is that Graves thinks the court case in Shreveport which holds that Fields’ newly-drawn district is ultimately going to be tossed as a racial gerrymander, and he’ll get a re-redrawn district next year he can return to in 2026.

And we’re not going to say that won’t happen. We think there’s a pretty good chance it will happen. On the other hand, what’s pretty likely is the Louisiana legislature will redraw the congressional map again and they might draw the Sixth District as a GOP-friendly district but not a Graves-friendly one.

Exactly how they’d do that we’re not going to speculate about. All we’re saying is that it might not be the safest assumption that things will simply go back to the way they were when that court case concludes.

In the meantime, Graves doesn’t have anything to run for this fall.

Ahhh, but he does, and it’s actually a very important job, one which (1) matters, (2) holds a great deal of power, (3) carries some serious budgetary oomph to it, (4) needs a lot of policy chops applied to fix some longstanding problems and (5) would make for a fairly big national story were a Republican to win it.

We’ve noted before that running for mayor-president in Baton Rouge would be a great move for Graves to make.

Right now there is no Republican candidate in that race, which is a damned shame. Sharon Weston Broome is an absolute disaster as Baton Rouge’s mayor; she’s had two terms and everything is worse. She wasted the last four years fighting the St. George incorporation and lost, and now she’s praying for a last-minute reprieve from the Louisiana Supreme Court which will not come.

Broome is going to lose re-election. But as of right now she’s going to lose to Ted James, the former state representative who just left a deadhead job at Joe Biden’s Small Business Administration to get back into politics. A few days ago James reported that he had $473,000 in his campaign account, while Broome is sitting on $320,000.

Those are rookie numbers compared to what Graves has, and he can raise a lot more.

Broome and James are likely to be at each other’s throats. Neither one of them are particularly energetic campaigners. James is one of the laziest politicians in Louisiana; he’s been getting funding from business people in Baton Rouge essentially because he’s not Broome. In fact, not being Broome is really all he has to offer – that and the idea that it’ll be the business community and the white voters who would make him mayor and therefore he would have to pay off that support.

Introduce Graves to that equation and Ted James becomes either a spoiler who saps Broome’s support and then auctions himself and his support off in the runoff (an auction that Graves could easily win, because Ted James at the end of the day is fairly transactional), or he knocks Broome out of the runoff and then it’s an interesting runoff race between Graves and James.

At this point the way is clear for him to take up this challenge.

The city-parish government in East Baton Rouge is about a billion dollars a year. The incorporation of St. George will lop off a little bit of that, but even still there is a fat pot of money for the Mayor-President in Baton Rouge to spend every year.

On roads and drainage and other infrastructure, which has been a point of emphasis for Graves throughout his career in politics.

On cops and law enforcement, something the current clown in charge has utterly botched, meaning that making our streets safer is (1) doable and (2) would yield immediate results he could rightly claim credit for.

On economic development, and Baton Rouge has virtually none because anyone who meets Sharon Broome instantly recognizes she has not a clue about how a private-sector economy works.

And on lots of other things, none of which are run well.

Garret Graves could treat Baton Rouge like his own private erector set, a laboratory for urban reform policy which could put this place on track to become the “next great American city” and all the other honorifics the city fathers used to throw around before Broome got elected eight years ago. This place actually has some pretty decent assets to build from. It’s just suffered from three or four decades of either visionless leadership or outright incompetence and has never really had anybody who fully knew what he or she was doing running the place.

Put an actual achiever in charge, and yeah – all of those emptied-out industrial spaces in North Baton Rouge could refill with companies making things. And that would result in the people living in those areas being able to get jobs and earn a half-decent wage. Which would result in all those beat-up houses getting fresh coats of paint, new roofs and regularly-cut grass, which would in turn result in some of them selling for prices not outrageously below market.

Which would in turn result in developers buying up property and redeveloping it to make nice things in the northern half of the parish.

Which would result in companies interested in placing headquarters facilities in Baton Rouge.

Which would result in a population influx and lots of fresh dollars coming in from a newly-recharged tax base.

Which would result in qualified people from other places looking for work as cops, teachers, firefighters and other crucial public employees.


Which would result in a more effective, and maybe even more efficient, local government.

What we’re talking about here is reversing the 20-year urban decline which has been sapping away at Baton Rouge ever since Derrick Todd Lee’s murder spree and the Bobby Simpson administration’s inability to stop it fundamentally changed this city.

It takes a well-liked politician with 100 percent name ID in town, a pre-made campaign war chest an order of magnitude greater than the competition’s and an ability to articulate the necessary sea change in how Baton Rouge is governed to turn the ship around.

But all of those things describe Graves.

Sure, he doesn’t get along with Mike Johnson or Steve Scalise or Jeff Landry. Which is why he got drawn out of his congressional district. But the fun part for him is that if he runs for mayor-president in Baton Rouge, all of those guys will have to offer Graves at least nominal support.

The entire Republican Party in Louisiana will.

Nothing else this fall is really worthy of much attention, after all. Donald Trump is going to win Louisiana probably 60-40 or better in the presidential race, neither of the Senate seats are up for re-election, with Graves not running we now have six congressional races with predetermined winners (Fields and the five incumbents will all win handily against token, at best, opposition), and it’s unlikely anybody will beat Craig Greene for his Public Service Commission seat.

Which means the Baton Rouge mayor’s race might be the single most high-profile competitive race in the state.

And if Graves were to get in it, he’d be carrying the standard for not just the Louisiana GOP but the center-right. He’d represent an opportunity to turn away from urban socialist decline.

The voters in Monroe and Shreveport have made such a turn already. They deposed Jamie Mayo and Adrian Perkins in their recent elections after it was clear both of them were destructively incompetent.

Broome is destructively incompetent, so much so she’s catching an opponent from her own party (and ideological persuasion; James might actually be further to the left than she is).

The votes are there, the turnout model favors a Republican in an election cycle quite low on reasons for Democrats to show up, and the need for intelligent governance has never been greater.

Here’s hoping Graves understands the opportunity staring at him. The whole state could benefit from him seizing it.



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