Report from Louisiana: Senate 2020

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Early voting is underway in Louisiana and in Shreveport the lines are blocks long waiting to get in. As large a city as Shreveport is, there is only one place to early vote.  What these long lines mean is anyone’s guess.

Last month I wrote in this space about the senatorial race in Louisiana between incumbent Bill Cassidy and newcomer Adrian Perkins; Perkins is currently the mayor of Shreveport, elected in 2018.

Word on the street, and in the polls, is that Perkins doesn’t stand a chance in this election, but what is clear is that his eye is on a bigger prize and Shreveport was never anything but a stepping stone to the next rung on the political ladder.

In my post last month, I outline some of the missteps by Adrian Perkins as mayor of Shreveport; this weekend, Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges covers much the same ground, outlining his background and political rise. Bridges compares Perkins quick rise to that of former Governor Bobby Jindal. This is not necessarily a good thing. Once full of great promise, Jindal left Louisiana in a fiscal mess.

The Advocate article is interesting to me in who it cites as advocates for Perkins; Mary Landrieu, for one. That’s enough to shut me down right there. His personal narrative is compelling:

As a boy, Perkins said, his mother often worked three jobs to put food on the table for her three sons. Perkins’ father left when he was three but returned when his son was in high school. Perkins said the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks inspired him to join the military. West Point recruited him, Perkins said, because he had top grades, had served as class president every year and was an all-state athlete in the 800 meters. At the military academy, Perkins said he was president of his class all four years, was a conference champion 10 times in track and field races and majored in economics. About 18 months after graduation, he was deployed to Iraq, where he was a platoon leader. During two tours of Afghanistan, he was a company commander with over 200 soldiers. After seven years in the military, Perkins, a captain, left at 28 to enter Harvard Law School. “I had already jumped out of planes and rappelled out of helicopters,” he said. “I wanted to do something intellectually stimulating.”

All well and good but his success in Shreveport during his brief tenure as mayor has been nonexistent. Bridges touches on some of the same scandals I mentioned last month but also points out that Perkins has lost a lot of support. Republican leaders who were willing to work with him have turned their backs on him:

A group of Republican businessmen who helped elect him in 2018 turned against Perkins after he awarded an insurance contract to the first cousin of his campaign manager. The man had no experience in that area of insurance. The businessmen said Perkins had broken his promise not to engage in politics as usual. A city internal audit said the new contract appeared to provide less coverage for more money. Perkins said it was a good deal for the city and added, “We introduced minorities into insurance coverage for the first time in the city’s history. Minorities should have an opportunity, outside of the well connected class.”

From my personal perspective, as a resident of Shreveport, I could in no way support Perkins for any higher office because I don’t believe he has fulfilled his promise for this office. He ran for mayor as someone who wanted to do new, fresh things to better this city, and he has failed miserably. Shreveport is not a large city by many standards – in 2018 we had a population of about 188,000. We are demographically 57% black, 38% white. We have shootings every single day and our murder rate is way up. There is no manufacturing in Shreveport and jobs are primarily service industry jobs. The largest employer in Shreveport is the school system, followed by Willis Knighten hospital system. There is little for families to do here unless you like going to casinos or bars.

All that negativity to say that Perkins has a lot of room in which to improve this city, but has not done so. Given that, I don’t think he will do much better for the state, should he somehow be elected senator. I truly believe this is only an exercise in building name recognition and that Perkins wants to take that same meteoric rise as Barack Obama. Presidential aspirations? Maybe. Higher office than mayor of a dying city? Certainly.

Even after Perkins loses this election, it won’t be the last you hear of him.

Mark my words.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.