Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins can run for re-election, Louisiana Supreme Court rules | Elections
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins is back on the ballot after the Louisiana Supreme Court narrowly ruled Friday that a paperwork mistake does not disqualify him from running for re-election this fall.
The high court’s order on a 4-3 vote reverses trial court and appellate court rulings that had knocked the 36-year-old mayor from the ballot because he listed his mother’s address in his filing papers, not that of the condo where he holds a homestead exemption. Both addresses are in Shreveport, so there was no argument about whether Perkins lived in the city.
With a second lease on his political life, Perkins said he will now have an unimpeded opportunity to make his case for a second term.
“Everybody feels very revitalized today,” Perkins said in an interview. “The four justices decided to let the voters of Shreveport decide who their next mayor will be.”
As the incumbent, Perkins has several advantages, but he faces nine challengers, a sign that stumbles during his first term have many voters wanting someone else to lead Louisiana’s third-biggest city.
One sore spot: Perkins’ decision to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican, in 2020. Perkins, a Democrat, finished a distant second, and alienated supporters who thought he should have devoted all his time focusing on Shreveport’s many needs.
Shreveport lost nearly 6% of its population between 2010 and 2020, according to the census, dropping to 187,500 residents.
Perkins’ best-known opponent is longtime state Sen. Greg Tarver, a Democrat. Other major opponents include Tom Arceneaux, a lawyer and Republican; LeVette Fuller, a Democrat who recently resigned from the Shreveport City Council; and Mario Chavez, a former Republican-turned-independent who is a Caddo Parish commissioner.
A July survey by Florida-based pollster Jim Kitchens for a group of businessmen showed Perkins with only 24% of the vote, but leading the field. Arceneaux had 21%, Chavez 15%, Tarver 13% and Fuller 8%.
Perkins acknowledged that his polling numbers “are not great for an incumbent. I’m facing a polarized society and the diversity of Shreveport.”
He said he is attempting to rebuild the strong biracial coalition that lifted him into the mayor’s office in 2018 with 64% of the vote. In defeating then-Mayor Ollie Tyler, he ran strongly in White precincts where Black candidates don’t normally fare well. Both Tyler and Perkins are Black.
Perkins had just graduated from Harvard Law School, which he attended after tours of duty as an U.S. Army field artillery officer in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prior to that, he graduated from West Point, where he was president of his class all four years and starred in track and field.
“I’ve had to deal with a pandemic, an economic crisis and months and months of demonstrations from the George Floyd killing,” Perkins said. “Citizens will get to compare our narrative with the ideas of the other candidates.”
Hank Gowen, who was a long-time Shreveport attorney before retiring, said he thinks the Supreme Court decision hurts Tarver and Arceneaux the most by narrowing their paths to victory.
Tarver, 76, disagreed, saying he is challenging Perkins “to make a difference in this city. It is going down faster than the Titanic. Nothing is being done. People don’t have confidence in government in Shreveport.”
Tarver has served on the predecessor to the Caddo Parish Commission, on the Shreveport City Council and since 1983, except for eight years, as a state senator.
“I’ve never lost a race,” he said, adding that he has brought tens of millions of dollars in state funds to Shreveport over the years.
Arceneaux could not be reached on Friday.
The Supreme Court case turned on whether state election law disqualifies a candidate for the mistake that Perkins committed, said Scott Bickford, a New Orleans attorney who represented the mayor.
Bickford noted that the Legislature has determined that certain offenses should rule out candidates, but did not include Perkins’ error on that list.
“In the absence of a specific legislative directive, the court deferred to the voters to make the ultimate decision as to who should be the candidates,” Bickford said in an interview.
Chief Justice John Weimer wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by Justices Will Crain, Piper Griffin and James Genovese.
“Nothing is more fundamental and sacred to our system of democracy than the ability of citizens to choose their leaders as many other fundamental rights flow from the right to vote and elect who will serve,” Weimer wrote.
Dissenting were Justices Jefferson Hughes III, Jay McCallum and Scott Crichton.
Crichton, who lives in Shreveport, wrote in his dissent that in signing the filing papers, Perkins swore that all of the information was correct.
“Perkins submitted and certified knowingly false substantive information on a sworn form filed in the public record,” Crichton wrote. “Such a statutory interpretation is not mandating perfection. It is mandating the truth under oath. The magnitude of Perkins’ deliberate action in this case cannot be understated.”