Like it or not, race is a factor, – a major factor, – in Northwest Louisiana politics. The upcoming 2014 election for Shreveport mayor will most likely result in the election of Shreveport’s second black mayor, if for no other reason than a strong white candidate has yet to surface. (Sorry Parker Ward but your second try will be another misguided waste of time and money). At this time, the likely black candidates are not gaining much, if any, traction in the white community.
The announced black candidates are State Representative Patrick Williams, Shreveport City Councilman Sam Jenkins, State Representative Roy Burrell, and Caddo Commissioner Michael Williams. Maxine Sarpy is being touted by State Senator Greg Tarver as a strong candidate; Sarpy will not comment on her intentions and many believe her name is only being pushed by Tarver to curry political favor with the announced candidates.
Shreveport has, at this time, a little over 129,000 registered voters. Approximately fifty-two (52%) per cent of the race are black, forty-four (44%) per cent are white, and the remainder are other races.
Looking at these numbers, black candidates, who will obviously be splitting the black vote, will need substantial support from white voters on the November 4 primary to make the runoff. Even though it’s a Tuesday election, voter turnout should be relatively high due to the number of elections on the ballot: U.S. Senate, U.S. Representatives, Shreveport Marshal, Caddo School Board and Shreveport City Council in addition to Shreveport Mayor.
The run-off election on Saturday, December 4 will probably have substantially less voters at the polls, – unless there is a runoff for the U.S. Senate. Voter turnout will probably be higher in the white community in December, and maybe even in the November primary. A strong white candidate with minimal support in the black community could be successful in this election, although this scenario is not likely.
Black mayoral candidates must not only solicit white votes, but white campaign dollars as well. How the white business community and white political power bases line up will be critical to aspiring black mayoral hopefuls who must get their faces out in a successful way to the voter base. Contributions from white campaign donors will probably exceed those from black supporters by a large margin, and thus ultimately white power brokers will influence this race as much as black voters, if not more.
Like it or not, next year’s mayoral local hopefuls must contend with the very real perception by both black and white voters that Cedric Glover’s tenure as Shreveport’s first black mayor was a dud. Thus a serious contender should be careful to distance himself from Glover, and especially from the false hopes of those who were elated with having the first black mayor in office, as well as the bad taste many voters have of his administration.
Thus, the real challenge for a black mayoral candidate will be to set up a campaign that appeals to all Shreveport voters. It’s a high wire act that must avoid the appearance of either being a white Uncle Tom or a black homeboy. The novelty of a black mayor that Glover enjoyed in 2006 has worn off, and white voters will be focused more on credentials in 2014 than in the past mayoral two elections; hopefully the same will be true of black voters.