Goodness....the Caddo Commission will have a major change in composition after this year’s elections. There will be at least 5 new people on the 12 member body–maybe as many as 7.
Incumbents coming back without opposition are Lyndon Johnson (district 2), Steven Jackson (district 3), Stormy Gage-Watts (district 7), and John Atkins (district 9). They will be joined by newcomers without opposition,–Roy Burrell (district 5), and Jim Taliaferro (district 8).
Incumbents facing opposition are Lynn Cawthorne (district 6), Mario Chavez (district 10), and Louis Johnson (district 12.)
Lynn Cawthorne is being challenged by Steffon Jones. Quinton Aught is running against Mario Chavez. Louis Johnson is opposed by Ken Epperson.
Three commissioners are termed out: Doug Dominick (district 1), Matthew Linn (district 4), and Jim Smith (district 11.).
Ken Brown, Patrick J. Harrington, and Todd Hopkins are running for Dominick’s district 1 seat.
The candidates for district 4 commissioner are James Carstensen, Chris David and John-Paul Young. Ed Lazarus and Parker Ward are vying for Smith’s district 11 seat.
Currently the commission is composed of 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans . The Democrats are black. Five of the Republicans are white and one is a Latino.
The election has several interesting back stories.
The first was the judicial challenge of David’s domicile. A Caddo judge ruled that he could run in district 4 despite the fact he voted outside the district for mayor last year.
The second is the pending federal trial of Cawthorne, which is scheduled to begin in early Oct. before the primary. Cawthorne is the second Caddo commissioner to face federal criminal charges while in office.
Ward had actively campaigning for several months before qualifying. Lazarus was a surprise candidate. He had contributed to Ward’s unsuccessful campaign in 2015 for this seat.
Chavez is the first latino to be elected to public office in north Louisiana. His challenger ran a very close but unsuccessful race last fall against incumbent city councilman James Flurry.
Aught campaigned very little , while Flurry was extremely active. Aught’s high vote count was undoubtedly because he is a black Democrat . Flurry is a white Republican.
How Aught will fare against Chavez is the $64 question. White voters outnumber black voters in the district by approximately 2000. This is the same margin of Democrats over Republicans. There are over 3000 voters listed as "other party."
Chavez can be expected to campaign very aggressively. Whether or not Aught will take the same approach in this race as he did in the council campaign is unknown.
Ken Epperson resigned his commission position at the end of 2016. Louis Johnson was elected as his successor. Now Epperson wants his old seat back on the commission. He served on the commission representing district 6 from 1992-2003. He then served as the commission from district 12 from 2008 until his resignation.
The major story in these election is a possible change in the fundamental composition of the Commission. Currently it is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. If Aught is elected the commission will have 7 Democrats and 5 Republicans.
Many votes on commission finances follow party lines, and the same is true with Commission appointments. In effect the balance of power on the commission will depend on the outcome of the Chavez-Aught election.