Northwest Louisiana has two State Senate races that voters in south Louisiana are watching very closely. Districts 37 and 39 have candidates who have a unique style and varied substance, as well as appeal to voters. With the elements of these races being so compelling, we did a little beneath the surface “poking around in the records” that we hope will give a few insider tidbits voters may find “more than interesting” between now and the October 22 primary vote. And since voters in district 37 tend to have the highest rate of absentee voter participation, we are going to attempt to make this district our first focus prior to the October 8th poll opening for absentee ballots.
Shreveport Times reporter John Andrew Prime noted in a Sunday, September 25, article, the ‘district opened when incumbent Republican Sen. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw decided against running for his seat.’ Senator Shaw made an interesting observation when he announced that he would not stand in the October primary. Shaw voted for term limits, and he felt that, along with the eight years he served as a State Representative, the intent of term limits were that he had served long enough – a total of twelve years.
That said, Jane Smith, term limited in the House, quickly announced that she was running for the open seat of District 37. Her feelings were that she had been an effective representative of the district, and that, with the endorsement of Governor Jindal, as one of his floor leaders, and the support of the business community in both Shreveport and Bossier, she could waltz in unopposed.
However, prominent businessman Barrow Peacock, quickly made a serious race obvious. Behind the scenes, we understand that the Baton Rouge power base, as well as direct contacts from Jindal’s office could not budge Peacock from his decision that the voters deserved a choice in candidates. There were even a number of upset property owners and residents of the Flournoy Lucas corridor who felt that Smith had abandoned them with her participation in Bossier developer Tim Larkin’s attempt to get the State to abandon the continuation of the State 3132 route toward Highway 1 and the Port. The lobby of the group for the completion of 3132 has also been evident in this race.
But the current state of affairs was well addressed by both Prime and Times Editor Craig Durrett in other ways. The two conservative Republicans have much in common and yet much to differentiate their experiences. Peacock is no novice to political races, however he has yet to be elected. Peacock has served on many committees, such as the Military Affairs Council and has good working knowledge of Barksdale housing, education and quality of life. He has a successful business career and understands what citizens in the area have experienced in frustration with Baton Rouge government practices.
Smith, on the other hand, has an excellent working relationship with the administration of Governor Jindal and has an excellent record of “bringing home the bacon.” There is value in this, and some of her constituents have reaped great rewards from the pork doled out in her district. It has meant some jobs and she is has repeatedly taken credit for the I-49 extension, Haynesville Shale and other projects that are the result of tax credits and selective benefits.
Other issues that were made quite obvious in Durrett’s article were the financial backers that each candidate had or did not have. Smith’s list of donors read like a who’s who of business and industry. It was the chamber of commerce heavy hitters and the developers who have benefited from the legislation that has brought tax money back to this district.
Peacock on the other hand is indebted almost exclusively to himself. He doesn’t appear to have to rely on the many benefactors that he will have to answer to if elected. So it can almost be stated that he is “Unbought and Unbossed.” That may come back to haunt him, if elected and he may acquire many “backers” who will help him retire his debt. But, we must admire his tenacity to confront the power of the Governor’s Office.
So what have we found that has not already been covered in the media? Later this week we will report on voting records of the incumbents, expense records and “Deals” that we understand have been cut behind the scenes that will affect voters after the election. We find that if you “follow the money” you have a better appreciation of the motivations and promises that have been or will be made.
After all, we believe that decisions are formulated when coalitions lobby for various projects. And if you dig deeply enough behind some of the financial decisions that have been made, you begin to understand who and what motivated these decisions.
Who hasn’t looked back into the history of Louisiana politics and not found the wizard behind the curtain who managed to reap great rewards from the office holders who passed along contracts and benefits from the power in Baton Rouge? We think these “behind the curtains” elements need to be exposed to the voters.