Alexander, Tea Party and Tax Assessor’s Race ? ?

By JOHN E. SETTLE JR.

The last-minute entry of Republican Royal Alexander into the Caddo Tax Assessor race was the biggest surprise of the election qualifications on Thursday, Sept. 8. Royal’s entrance into the race will represent the first real test of the Red River Tea Party’s strength as a political body. Alexander is the “face” of the local Tea Party group – not to be confused with the Tea Party of Louisiana. Alexander, an attorney, has previously run for State Attorney General; he lost to Buddy Caldwell in 2007 by a 67 percent to 33 percent margin. Alexander has been in politics most of his adult life, having worked as a legislative assistant for U.S. Congressman Clyde C. Holloway in Washington from 1990 to 1993. After receiving his J.D. (law) degree in 1996, he clerked for U.S. District Judge Rebecca F. Doherty in Lafayette. He then practiced law in Shreveport, including a stint with Craig Smith’s firm.

Alexander returned to D.C. to work for U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander (no relation) as chief of staff in 2004. Royal was involved in a sexual harassment scandal in 2006 involving another congressional staffer, which ended his stint as Rodney Alexander’s chief of staff. A sexual harassment suit filed against Alexander by a former staff member was ultimately dismissed.

The rise of the Tea Party movement has given Alexander a fresh start in politics, and although this group touts itself as non-partisan, most of its members, including Alexander, are close akin to the “religious right.” The dedication of the local group is evidenced by their frequent “rallies” at busy street intersections during rush hour traffic times.

This past spring, Alexander served as the spokesperson for Red River Tea Party’s unsuccessful campaign against the Shreveport Mayor Glover’s bond package.

Alexander’s role as the “moderator” at a Tea Party bond forum gave him plenty of media “face” time, in a losing effort.

If Alexander’s assessor campaign is anything like his “moderator” role, one can expect a bombastic effort that will be long on accusations and short on objectivity. Alexander will probably attack the tax rate of Shreveport/Caddo Parish, deemed by some to be the highest in the state, without mentioning that tax rates are not set by the assessor.

The tax assessor is, however, responsible for the determination of the assessed value of properties, which does affect the amount of taxes. Many Shreveport residents who complain about taxes on their homes find themselves in a catch-22 situation. Almost all homeowners are happy that their home has increased in value unlike their stock market investments; of course, no one (except maybe Warren Buffett) wants to pay more taxes. It’s a “have your cake and eat it, too” fantasy that defies rational logic as it comes to value versus tax rate.

And whether or not those protesting tax assessments have actually appealed an increased assessment is too obvious a taxpayer alternative to be mentioned by a staunch Tea Party activist like Alexander.

How the race, which is generally not one that draws much attention, plays out will be interesting to follow, especially since Bossier’s incumbent assessor, Bobby Edmiston, is also being challenged. Henington is a Democrat, and that, plus his long-standing reputation as a “good guy” in the community, should serve him well in this unexpected challenge.

Perhaps the real question will be how “politically responsible” a campaign Tea Partier Alexander will run.