The entry of a viable Democrat into the race for U.S. Senate may not make the contest LSU-Alabama competitive, but Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins’ candidacy certainly means the Nov. 3 election is no longer a mere coronation for U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, which had been the dynamic for months.

The strategy for most of Cassidy’s 14 opponents is to tweet their new ideas, which voters will embrace and propel them to victory. Reno Jean Daret III, No Party-Metairie, for instance, says that once voters hear his solutions they will rally around him. One of his ideas to save taxpayer dollars would close prisons then concentrate convicts in an out of the way camp where they would be watched by drones and summarily killed if they passed a certain line in the forest.

Republican Cassidy versus Democratic Perkins has a more traditional campaign feel with Super PACs, high-caliber operatives, videos of reflective walks down country roads, the promise of lots of ads. That, and the major candidates’ refusal to answer direct questions directly.

When asked if the Republican senator supported the Democratic governor’s directive that everyone in Louisiana wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Cassidy tap-danced.

Everyone should wear a mask, he said, but the federal government shouldn’t require everyone in the nation to wear a mask because that’s a local decision based on the local situation.

“I don’t think police should be arresting people who walk in some place who are not wearing a mask,” Cassidy said. “But I absolutely do think that if we want to play football in Tiger Stadium; if we want to see Drew Brees in his last year; if we want to see all of our state schools having athletics this fall, we need to cut down that virus."

Jazz hands.

Even though Gov. John Bel Edwards has said pretty much the same thing, a significant faction in Cassidy’s Republican Party is vocally against the governor and his efforts to address the pandemic. A legislative petition to cancel the health care emergency order that allows the governor to make such directives is one example. Another is Acadiana Congressman Clay Higgins’ tweets that Edwards is “set for a reckoning. … We’re going to get his mind right.”

“Given the environment that we’re in, supporting the governor is not a step you want to take,” said veteran political strategist Roy Fletcher, of Baton Rouge. Such a move would automatically anger members of Cassidy’s base and not translate into votes from Democrats, many of whom won’t back the senator regardless of what he says.

Perkins dissembled when asked where he stood on the abortion issue.

He’s representing a national party whose position differs significantly from the nearly two-thirds of the population in Louisiana who are either Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant and adamantly against abortion on theological grounds.

A significant number of Democrats, both in Louisiana and nationally, also oppose abortion despite the national party’s platform. The latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue was about the constitutionality of a Louisiana statute proposed by a Democratic legislator. (The high court in June found Louisiana’s law unconstitutionally limiting.)

The Democratic Party platform unequivocally supports “a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy.” It goes on to call the pregnancy-ending procedure an “intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy.”

Perkins used the personal decision language of the party platform in his rambling rhetorical journey to describe his position on the issue.

Perkins said he is personally against abortion, but the pro-life discussion should include providing better child care, access to health care, a quality education and other services after a child is born.

“Being pro-life is not so narrow as to talk about abortion alone. You have to go beyond. You have to take care of life beyond its inception. You take care of life in its entirety,” said Perkins, a combat soldier who chose public service over making a mid-six-figure salary at a white-shoe law firm in New York City.

On the other hand, Perkins could have taken the easy route and said he would just wait for the people to decide as they’re being asked to in a state constitutional amendment also on the Nov. 3 ballot. The amendment, sponsored by a Democratic legislator, asks if the voter supports protecting human life in the state constitution and that the “right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the Louisiana Constitution.”


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.