by John E. Settle, Jr.

Without a doubt the defeat of Lydia Jackson by Greg Tarver in her bid for a third state Senate term will provide plenty of tinder for political hot stove discussions for weeks, if not months.  This tumultuous election polarized the black community (and much of the white community as well) like no other election in this decade; the fallout from Tarver’s upset (?) victory will be unprecedented.

Jackson’s camp included Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, Bishop Larry Brandon, Helen Godfrey Smith, and Lillian Priest, among others.  Both Glover and Brandon had substantial TV coverage at Jackson’s primary election party,–especially Glover. These two were conspicuously absent at the Saturday election night wake for Jackson.

Tarver’s local lieutenants included Dottie Bell, Sam Gilliam, Joe Shyne and Bishop Fred Caldwell.  He had endorsements from Caddo D.A. Charles Scott and Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator, along with legislators Michael Williams, Roy Burrell and Jim Morris.Although a seasoned politician, Jackson’s re-election effort was hampered by what she had, –and had not -done for her constituency.  Jackson was generally more visible at events and activities that were not readily identifiable with her district.  And she was definitely more at ease with sophisticated, affluent voters versus the blue collar and rural constituents of District 39.

Jackson’s failure to be responsive to voters was a key issue; many complained of her habitual failure to return calls, answer letters, and/or deal with concerns of the average working Joe.  Her challenge by Vivian resident Jim Slagle was really a protest candidacy; if Slagle had not filed, attorney Doug White was prepared to enter into the race.

Jackson’s contemptuous attitude of the local delegation was well known, and this was the primary reason for the endorsements of Tarver by Williams, Burrell and Morris.  Many public officials openly complained of Jackson’s indifference to their requests for assistance, and their support for Tarver was motivated by Jackson’s record of indifference.

Despite her political upbringing, Jackson never seemed to relish the role of an elected official when it came to being an approachable, engaging elected official.  And that attitude was, in effect, her undoing in this election.

At his campaign victory party, Tarver was humble, and his speech reflected his gratitude for the hard won election fight.  Tarver said he would represent all people in his district — black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat because all of his constituents have a common bond, that being an American first.  Tarver emphasized he would push for unity in his district, and that from his perspective, all the election hostilities had ended when the polls closed at 8 p.m.

Tarver’s many critics should reflect on his comments, and give him a fair shake based on what he does from election date forward, versus dwelling on his past.  Obviously the “our senator” disapproval of Jackson was indicative of Jackson’s failures, while Tarver’s victory was reflective of his reputation for “getting the job done.”