Shreveport can lay claim to being the first and also last in many things, certainly the most important this week is drawing the attention of the whole State to the Senate District 39 election. And the most interesting revelation to voters as this election pulls into the final stages is the manipulation of the electorate by the power interests of the State. Here’s the player roster and what they have at stake.
Governor Bobby Jindal, the ultimate “Puppet Master” from Baton Rouge, has strong-armed his way in Shreveport in the first primary, attempting to elect term-limited State Representative Jane Smith to Senate District 37. General Jane was strongly rejected by a large portion of her formerly loyal Bossier constituents plus the Caddo voters, so the governor struck out on this race. Now Jindal is doubling down on Senate 39, calling in many political markers in an attempt to defeat incumbent Senator Lydia Jackson, who opposed Jindal senate programs that would have been detrimental to indigent defense programs. So how has the Governor been able to strong-arm local players to support Greg Tarver, the previous Senator and non-convicted co-conspirator of Edwin Edwards? The rewards or potential punishments the public may never know, but certainly are known by the parties. The penalties to opponents are well known to all as perennial opponents of the Governor such as Foster Campbell have funding for projects in their districts vetoed or magically just disappear.
Now we get to the local politicians lined up to support Tarver. The proverbial statement that “Politics makes strange bed fellows” is more than appropriate here. Long-time Republicans have jumped on the governor’s wagon, along with some in the black Democratic Party, fearful of Tarver retribution, to oppose Jackson’s bid for reelection. The alliances seem to make no sense, until you look at who is signing letters of endorsement.
Sheriff Steve Prator went out on a limb to write letters to Senate 39 voters because Jackson supported programs that cut his funding. This action requires a lot of chutzpah or as they say in Vivian brazen gall! In short, the sheriff’s reputation has been one of the strongest in the State, and he seldom went out on the political limb. But this time, he may be taking a risk. The Governor must have promised or threatened him in a way that only the Sheriff will probably know, or perhaps the Governor’s inner circle. When we examine the merits of a political endorsement of this magnitude we also have to look at the programs that Jackson did not endorse that would have strengthened the Caddo Sheriff’s Office. Jackson certainly did not ingratiate herself with the Sheriff when she voted not to fund some of his pet programs in the legislature. So now it’s payback time!
So what would the citizens gain and what would that have at stake by voting for the Governor’s candidate? If Tarver wins we know the following: The Governor has another vote in his pocket when he needs it (although Tarver will extract “benefits” for himself and his friends), The Sheriff will have another vote in Baton Rouge for his programs (and he too will be negotiating with Tarver), District 39 Republicans may have a rentable ally (also with a price to pay) and the voters will have to live with the record of Tarver from his prior service in Baton Rouge and his known record for taking care of the Tarvers first. He can sit at the rail and count his newfound revenue.
Is it possible there will be Senator Gregory Tarver – “The Puppet on a String?” And does this resemble politics of the last century when the white community tries to install a candidate they think they can control?