Marshal’s Forum Provides Few Insights Into Race

Shreveport Attorney John Settle
Opinion– John Settle

 It was a valiant effort by the Southern Hills Homeowner’s Association to have a forum for announced Shreveport Marshal candidates; unfortunately the event fell flat for many reasons. Surprisedly the event was well attended (approximately 150) despite the scheduling on a Monday night after the long 4th of July weekend and relatively poor publicity; the number of attendees non committed was probably very low. Those who entered without a favored candidate probably left the same way, and maybe even disenchanted with the slate. The event was really more about the potential candidate who was not there and the hard questions not asked to those that were in attendance.

Mystery Candidate
Inner Circle…

The announced candidates in attendance included the Marshal himself (Charlie Caldwell), D.D. Otis, Joey Hester and Anthony (A.J.) Johnson. Jim Taliaferro, the unannounced candidate who has formed a steering committee, was conspicuously absent; he is still working for the Shreveport Police Department and can not announce until he retires. Reportedly one or two of his inner circle were present to monitor the event.

The questions posed to each candidate were basically all the same; they should have been significantly pared down. Having each candidate answer 5 questions along with opening and closing statements by each contributed to an overly long program that was short on specifics, long on overlap, and heavy on repetition. The format did not allow individualized questions, and hopefully others will allow for discussion of why Hester and Johnson were fired (from both perspectives), why Caldwell paid in excess of $150,000 to resolve a lawsuit with a former employee, or why he has spent more than $400,000 on legal fees while in office less than 6 years. Additionally, the challengers should be queried on their specific platforms and credentials that make them the best candidate for the job.

$400,000 legal fees???

Being the political season (qualifying for many many offices is Aug 22-24), the audience was filled with candidates for other offices. A partial list includes: Representative Patrick Williams (candidate for Mayor); D.A. Charles Scott who is seeking re-election; Caddo District Judge Scott Creichton who is a candidate for the Louisiana Supreme Court; Caddo Commissioner Doug Dominick who is running for Crichton’s Caddo judgeship; Bossier deputy Marshall Jim Waltman who is running for Bossier Marshall; and Shreveport mayoral candidates Ollie Tyler and Victoria Provenza. Some of the elected officials in attendance who were not running for office this fall included Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn, Shreveport City Judge Pam Lattier and City Councilman Ron Webb. 

Caldwell in  "uniform"
Caldwell in “uniform”

Personal interaction between the candidates and the crowd was fairly even, although Caldwell appeared very defensive most of the evening. The most contrast political styles was in that of the mayoral candidates; Williams was the most gregarious by far, warmly speaking to all in attendance,– laughing, joking with and embracing anyone who had a pulse. Tyler looked like a tired wooden soldier only addressing those who directly approached her or were introduced to her by school board member Larry Ramsey, who was her designated keeper for the evening. Victoria Provenza, the political neophyte, appeared to be a kid in a large candy store totally overwhelmed by the event and the crowd.

It’s still a long time until the November 4 primary, and how the Marshall candidates will create any real buzz in this race, either individually or collectively, is a puzzle yet to be resolved. Unless hard questions are asked and answered by all seeking this position, this race will be just about “I am the experienced Marshal” versus “ I can be a better Marshall rhetoric”. As this juncture there is no clear favorite is what is now a 4 man race, – but soon will be a 5 man scramble, with no clear favorite.