Desperate times call for desperate measures.
That’s the least we could infer from the scuttlebutt that two white candidates from north Monroe are considering opposing Mayor Jamie Mayo in the spring 2020 election.
The word desperate comes to mind for a number of reasons.
For months, a consortium of concerned Monroe businessmen and women have been actively attempting to recruit a candidate to run against Mayo next March. The general feeling among the concerned is Monroe is on the decline thanks to Mayo’s leadership. There are reasons to feel that way.
Though Gov. John Bel Edwards made a big to-do about CenturyLink agreeing to maintain its corporate headquarters in Monroe through 2025, it’s widely known CenturyLink’s executives, by and large, do not work or live in Monroe. Furthermore, the company’s presence in Monroe could adequately be described as a shell of what it once was, though it should be noted CenturyLink still employs a healthy number of individuals in its call centers here.
CenturyLink’s dwindling contribution to the Monroe area economy simply represents the latest in a list of employers that at one point or another employed hundreds of Ouachita Parish residents, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity in the northeastern Louisiana economy, specifically in Monroe and West Monroe. Remember State Farm? Remember the Guide plant? Those two companies bailed on Monroe on Mayo’s watch, eliminating more than 1,500 jobs and an annual payroll in the tens of millions of dollars. Ouch.
Let’s not overlook Monroe’s crime problem. Though the mayor and U.S. Attorney David Joseph recently held a news conference to proclaim crime in Monroe was on the decline, one would have every right to ask which Monroe in America were Joseph and Mayo referring to? Seriously.
The word desperate also rings a bell for demographic reasons.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent figures on Monroe’s population (2017), some 63 percent of the residents in Monroe are black. Thirty-four percent are white.
In Utopia, race no longer plays a role in politics. But we don’t live in Utopia. We live in America, particularly the Deep South, where race, or racial division, still drives just about every facet of every election from the lowest elective office you can think of to the highest, and everything in between including a mayor’s race in a predominantly black city.
Accordingly, it is foolhardy to believe a white candidate from north Monroe could unseat Mayo in a city-wide election. Worse, two white candidates would accomplish nothing but to divide a majority of the white voters in Monroe into two camps. Make no mistake. Voters in Monroe, by and large, will cast their ballots based on skin color, assuming there’s a white candidate in the race against a black one.
Those concerned businessmen and women who plowed the landscape in search of a candidate to run for mayor were right to focus on recruiting a black candidate to take on Mayo. The numbers made sense. In other words, a solid black candidate in a head-to-head matchup with Mayo could conceivably split the black vote in Monroe and win the election by carrying white north Monroe. But no credible black candidate has emerged.
That’s where former CenturyLink lobbyist John Jones and Monroe businessman Friday Ellis enter the picture. They would be the two white candidates from north Monroe who are weighing a race against Mayo. Or being encouraged to oppose him.
Regardless of whether they’re weighing the race or being encouraged to get into it, Ellis and Jones could save themselves a host of headaches — not to mention a lost cause — by staying out of it.
Yet, there is an alternative, assuming the civilized among us in north Monroe remain hell bent on being served by a white mayor. That alternative would entail taking a cue from the folks in the St. George community in southern East Baton Rouge Parish.
St. George’s residents became so fed up with the ruling class in Baton Rouge that they embarked on a crusade to secede from Baton Rouge proper in order to incorporate their own city within East Baton Rouge Parish. As you might expect, the politicians and the elitists in Baton Rouge were incensed by the mere notion that a horde of commoners in St. George would wish to govern themselves. And take their tax dollars with them.
As of this writing, the St. George campaign is alive and well and most likely headed to a ballot this fall for an up-or-down vote. It’ll pass as long as the politicians and the elitists stay out of it and allow the people to chart their own course.
So, north Monroe could conceivably split off from Monroe, or at least take a jab at it. Louisville Avenue could be the dividing line. Everything to the south would remain in Monroe while everything to the north would be called North Monroe. Certainly the demarcation could be gerrymandered to allow businesses and others in downtown Monroe or elsewhere along Louisville to opt out of Monroe, but those are particulars that the smart, pretty people can figure out later on.