Updated: Jan 18
Photo: Final election results from the Shreveport, LA Mayoral run-off election.
Photo: TBORAF President John Pudner (left) and National Grassroots Director Byron Shehee (right) working the turnout room in Shreveport, LA.
The anticipated “red wave” failed to hit many electoral shores in November, but for the second time this year, TBOR Action team members on leave-to-work campaigns celebrated a stunning victory - this time in Shreveport, Louisiana.
A variation on a recurrent 2022 theme, the Democrats had a 5-to-1 money advantage down the stretch, and in this case, selected a candidate who was re-elected to the State Senate with 69% of the vote to run in a heavily Democratic city where 57% of residents are black. Local news outlets quoted a political professor as stating Tarver would likely win based on early election results, but we saw something different.
Republican Tom Arceneaux won an election that a Republican had no chance of winning, just as Republicans across the country lost races they assumed they had every chance of winning. How did this happen?
The ingredients were the same as other winners across the country: a strong candidate, joined by a hard-working spouse, personally knocking on thousands of doors as an example for a team of volunteers - including a famous coach with dozens of former players in the NBA and NFL - joining them on the campaign trail. An early vote effort, too often spurned by Republicans, A hard-won digital ad battle, Election Day pushes in neighborhoods and at the polls, and to top it all off, a heavy volunteer phone program that continued until right before polls closed at 8 pm CST.
Another key to victory came from the voting system utilized for this election. Louisiana uses a majority vote system, which resembles the Final Five system advocated by TBOR Action. In both, a candidate needs a majority to win; in Louisiana, if no one gets a majority the first time, then the top two advance. We advocate for the same system, but with the top five candidates advancing.
The need to get enough traditional votes to advance to the final ballot, and then vie for “rebound” votes from those voters whose candidates did not advance, spared Shreveport the withering negative attack ads during the first phase. If the system had moved all the way to the Final-Five system that we advocate for, and was approved by Nevada voters the same day they booted their Democratic Governor, voters would have been spared the nasty ads in the runoff as well.
Unfortunately, since the runoff was just one-on-one, intensely personal attacks filled the final stretch of the campaign. The Final Five system is not designed to determine who wins an election, but rather to change how elections are run.
For example, our TBOR Action on-leave team's other victory party this year, celebrating Tim Michels’ narrow GOP primary upset in Wisconsin, was dampened by the fact that several million conservative dollars were spent attacking the top two candidates, which left Michels a damaged nominee, many Rebecca Kleefisch supporters bitter, and many conservative voters across Wisconsin less likely to get solidly behind Michels.
If the August primary had not been a “do-or-die" situation for Kleefisch, she could have joined Michels, as well as election integrity candidate Tim Ramthun and conservative independent Joan Bellinger, in advancing to a general election with four conservative candidates on the ballot. A similar quartet in Virginia's ranked choice convention ultimately resulted in Gov. Glenn Youngkin's victory, another historic upset for Republicans.
Nevada voted to have a Final Five system through an open primary, but another state could do this while leaving their Republican and Democratic primaries in place as well as adding an "unaffiliated" primary for other candidates. This process would resemble NFL playoffs, which for decades included only the winners of the two divisions. This year, the two NFL conference champions get an advantage—byes to advance to the second round—while three wild card winners are among those to advance, but must travel to fight it out in the first round.
Likewise, the two primary winners could still have the advantage of being designated "Republican nominee" or "Democratic nominee”—since the latest Gallup poll showed that only 17% of voters do not like either party, voters should be told who was endorsed by their preferred party. However, the other three candidates to receive the most votes—whether in the Republican, Independent, or Unaffiliated primary— would also advance to the Final Five ballot. Even though the Republican or Democratic nominee would usually still win, winning candidates would be able to value votes that, on their first choice, went to another conservative or progressive candidate, but who would give them the second-place vote that ultimately put them above 50 percent to be declared the winner.
To be clear (and legal), no TBOR Action resources are spent on political campaigns. Team members take unpaid leave, or TBOR Action is reimbursed for any time an employee spends on political activity, but as individuals, we are glad Tom Arceneaux has won such a monumental upset. However, we also appreciate that voters were spared nasty ads until the final week of the campaign, and we fervently hope that more states—the 50 different laboratories for democracy—will look at how the advantages of Final Five would work in their state to fix broken systems.
We appreciate Mayor-elect Arceneaux for thanking the TBOR Action team from the stage, but the credit goes to him and his local team for breaking down traditional barriers to win this race.
For more on TBORA's efforts on Final Five, please click here.
Photo: Mayor-elect Tom Arceneaux of Shreveport, LA delivers his victory speech following his historic win, thanking TBOR Action team members and local volunteers for their efforts.
Photo: TBORAF President John Pudner and National Grassroots Director Byron Shehee with Wendell Delaney, renowned leader and mentor known as "Coach" to many in Shreveport, former police officer, and Evangel Athletic Director.
Photo: Mayor-elect Tom Arceneaux of Shreveport, LA with TBORAF President John Pudner and National Grassroots Director Byron Shehee following his historic victory.