Keith Hightower, a Viable 2014 Mayoral Candidate?

Shreveport Attorney John Settle
by John Settle

In the hot stove political circles, this question generally pops up and not surprisingly, it evokes varying responses. Its early in the season for the 2014 mayoral wantabes, but seeming every discussion of candidates includes the “What is Hightower going to do?” inquiry.

Hightower has two big advantages over the names being tossed around as successor to Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover. Not only has he actually served as mayor, but also his name recognition probably equals, if not exceeds, that of all the rumored other candidates combined. In most circles Hightower is very similar to former Louisiana Edwin Edwards, – either really adored or really despised.

Keith Hightower
Keith Hightower

Hightower served as mayor from 1998 to 2006, after one term on the Shreveport City Council. As Mayor, he integrated Shreveport’s city government much more than any of his predecessors. However, many of his business dealings, both in and out of office, have caused resentment among Shreveport businessmen and citizens.

Hightower also has a tremendous leg up on other mayoral candidates in campaign finances. His war chest has at least $300,000.00, and he could probably boost this sum in a few months to well over a half million dollars. Notwithstanding his experience, name recognition, and big bucks, can Hightower win in 2014? The $64,000.00 question.

The November 4th primary election should have a heavy voter turnout, despite the fact it is a Tuesday. Shreveport voters will have a long, long ballot: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Mayor, City Council, Shreveport Marshall and Caddo School Board. Other than Hightower, no meaningful white candidate is likely to be in the mayor’s race and this fact alone should ensure that he would be in the run-off election. It is very, very unlikely he could win heads up November 4th.

Money talks
Money talks

The December 6th general election could be a totally different story. It is a Saturday contest with a much smaller ballot and voter appeal, – dependent in large part on whether or not there is a run-off election for the U.S. Senate. More money will be available for a black candidate in this election, and Hightower’s economic advantage would be substantially diminished. And one on one, few if any, politicians believe black voters will vote for a white candidate over a black one.

Is there any leadership here?
Where’s the leadership?

Thus the deciding factor in a Hightower versus black candidate run-off election will be voter turnout, – as it always does. Hightower can expect active opposition from hard core white Republicans, and this group could be very influential in a run-off – in terms of voters, campaign support, and dollars for a moderate black candidate. And although the black leaders are appreciative of Hightower’s efforts while mayor, most are convinced that the days of a white mayor are over for Shreveport.

decisions... decisions...
decisions… decisions…

Hightower has sent mixed messages on his intentions; he is expected to make a firm decision/announcement by late January. Many question why he would take a substantial pay cut to occupy the Mayor’s office, – and why he would want to lead the city with its financial challenges, adverse politics, aging infrastructure, white flight, etc. Bottom line the real question is whether or not he really thinks he can win – and most politicos say “no”.