Opinion: Lou Burnett – Louisiana’s 4th District

1741

Louisiana’s 4th District

Democrat in the 4th?

The 4th District U.S. House seat is an open one because current Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming, who has served four terms (eight years), is running for the U.S. Senate. It is a political plum that doesn’t come open very often. It has been in Republican hands since 1988. More on that later.

So, it’s not surprising that five Republicans have already announced they are running. They are, in alphabetical order, Dr. Trey Baucum of Shreveport, former state Sen. and candidate for Lt. Governor in 2015 Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, Shreveport City Councilman Oliver Jenkins, Shreveport attorney Rick John, and Bossier state Rep. Mike Johnson.

But is a viable Democratic candidate looming on the political horizon? Marshall Jones, a well-known Shreveport attorney, says he is being encouraged to run and is giving it serious consideration. It would not the first political rodeo for Jones. He ran for the 4th District seat at the age of 33 in a special election in March 1988 to replace Buddy Roemer who had been elected governor, but didn’t make the runoff.

Former Roemer aide Jim McCrery was the lone Republican in a field of 10 candidates. He finished first in the primary and wound up in a runoff with then Democratic state Sen. Foster Campbell.

McCrery won a nail-biter, defeating Campbell by 426 votes out of 126,654 cast. He would represent the district until he did not seek re-election in 2008 and retired. There was a brief period in the early 1990s after the state lost a congressional district that

McCrery represented the 5th District because the Legislature had made the 4th District a majority-black district. That plan was eventually thrown out and McCrery was put back in the 4th District.

Jones has always been involved in politics in one form or another. He was campaign chairman for four successful candidates who ran for office. They are:
*Mike Pitman for Caddo District Judge (2002).
*Frances Jones Pitman for Caddo District Judge (2008).
*Judge Frances Jones Pitman for 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal (2012).
*Judge James E. Stewart for Caddo Parish District Attorney (2015).

Democratic leaders believe that Jones, who is viewed as a conservative Democrat, would be a viable candidate with a good shot at winning the race at this particular time when the Republican Party seems to be in disarray at the state and national levels.

The 4th District was once considered the most conservative in the state and the country as well. But with the state losing two districts because of population non-
growth, and after two reapportionments, it is no longer such. It now has a significant number of black voters, who traditionally vote for a Democrat.. Currently, voter registration figures reveal that 62% are white, 34% black, and 4% other races. By party affiliation, 45% are Democrats, 30% Republicans, and 25% Other Party/No Party.

And Democratic leaders see the election of Democrat John Bel Edwards as governor as a sign that the political pendulum many be swinging back to a more moderate philosophy. A Democrat like Jones, who has deep pockets, would certainly spice up the race. Some pundits believe it will take at least $1 million or more to win the seat.

The 4th District is comprised of all of Allen, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Evangeline, Grant, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Union, Vernon, and Webster parishes and part of St. Landry Parish.

About 50% of voters are in Bossier and Caddo parishes. Of the total number of registered voters in the 4th District – 469,068 – Bossier and Caddo is home to 234,616, which makes it difficult for anyone outside of the two parishes to mount a viable campaign.

An Aside: Guillory is black, but a Republican, and he will be trying to woo black voters as well. But, as noted, most blacks tend to vote for a Democrat.

The webs we weave

That old saying, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave” could certainly apply to Bossier Parish Police Juror Rick Avery. Once upon a time, he had his mind set on running for mayor of Bossier City in April 2017 against incumbent Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker, who will be seeking a fourth term.

Now, Avery finds himself in a battle for his political life with some citizens and politicos calling for him to resign his Police Jury seat after a run-in with Bossier law enforcement officers. Should he decide to ride it out, he will likely have a difficult time getting re-elected.

It all began on the evening of April 10, 2016 when the longtime Police Juror was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A citizen spotted a weaving vehicle and called the police.
The weaving vehicle was being driven by Avery. He was arrested at his home by Bossier City police for DWI but was not booked into the Bossier City Jail per department policy.

Avery insisted he was not drunk and was suffering a reaction from drinking a beer after taking medication following leg surgery from when he was working on land he owns in north Bossier. He became belligerent with police officers who were unfortunate enough to be on duty when the was brought in and attempted to use his political clout to deal with his situation. He even used a racial slur at one of the officers. He was subsequently released without being given a test to determine his alcohol level.

When Police Chief Shane McWilliams learned of the incident, he ordered an investigation be conducted by the BPCD’s Internal Affairs Division into how the officers handled the situation.

Following the investigation, it was determined that officers failed to follow proper policy and procedure with regard to the incident. As a result, one officer, Ryan Hutchings, resigned from the department prior to disciplinary action being taken; a second officer, Terry Yetman, received a three-day suspension; and Communications Officer Tracy Cole was terminated.

Avery has since apologized to his fellow Police Jurors and says his doctor backs up his claims that he had a bad reaction from mixing alcohol with the medication he was taking.

As one Bossier politico noted, “The careers of three police officers have been tarnished or ruined because of Avery’s conduct, and an apology hardly rectifies that situation.”

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a
seasoned veteran of politics.
He publishes Fax-Net Update
a weekly political newsletter.