It’s a good question, and one that Caddo Commissioner Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) refused to answer on Monday after the Commission work session.
LBJ has been the driving force on the Commission to have the monument removed, stating frequently that "history belongs in a museum, not on the Caddo Courthouse lawn."
The citizen advisory committee, appointed by the Commission, had recommended on August 10 that the monument be left in place and be supplemented by 2 additional monuments honoring the Reconstruction Era and Civil Rights Movement.
On September 5 the Commission’s Long Range Planning and Special Projects Committee voted 4-3 to remove the monument. Caddo Commission President Stephen Jackson added LBJ to that committee after August 10 report was tendered to the Committee. LBJ’s vote to remove was the deciding vote on removal.
At the Monday work session (Sept 18) the Commission considered a resolution by LBJ to remove the monument and voted to place it on the Commission’s regular meeting agenda for October 19. The resolution could have been considered on October 5.
So…why the delay in the vote on the most decisive issue the Commission has considered this year, if not this decade?
The Commissioners have been hearing speakers, both pro and con, on the monument removal for the last several months. Most of these have been speaking at each work session and regular meeting. No doubt they will speak again in the 2 work sessions, the October 5 and October 19 regular meeting.
The primary election to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Ken Epperson (District 12) will be held on October 14—the Saturday before the scheduled Thursday vote on removal. Louis Johnson (Johnson) was appointed by the Commission as the interim commissioner in January of this year and he is a candidate in the primary.
At the work session Monday Johnson gave a long rambling statement about the upcoming vote to remove the monument, after he had voted to place the resolution on the October 19 agenda. Johnson’s monologue was long on verbiage but short on substance. He did not tip his hand on how he would vote. Johnson did say he was listening to his constituents, keeping their texts, calls and emails. He indicated he would follow the lead of the majority of those that contacted him.
Johnson is one of six candidates on the October 14 ballot; five including Johnson are black. The racial breakdown in the district is 56% black, 40% white, and 4% other. The voter turnout for the primary is expected to be less than 10 % and many believe the majority of those that vote will be white. Thus, Johnson’s official position on the Confederate monument could have a significant impact on his vote total on October 14.
Some politicos speculate that the LBJ’s motive in delaying the monument removal vote until after the primary was to assist Johnson (they are not related). A possible glitch in that theory is that one of the candidates, Fred Moss IV, is a fraternity brother of LBJ. One theory circulating around government plaza is that LBJ wants Johnson to be in a runoff with Moss.
All of this maneuvering may be for naught after a District 12 candidate forum on Sept 19. Johnson was hard pressed , as the sitting Commissioner, how he would vote on the monument if he was still on the Commission. Johnson said he would vote to remove the confederate monument.
If the white voters in District 12 are concerned about the monument, then Johnson's position - prior to the October 19 commission vote - - may be a factor in the October 14 primary. How all this plays out for Johnson, Moss and the other candidates will never really be known. Johnson’s removal vote will be the subject of much speculation both before and after the primary, and maybe in a runoff election as well.