Fairly by surprise, U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander announced he would not seek reelection to a seventh term, mooting half of one observer’s thesis but setting the table for a whole lot of speculation as to what happens next for the district and Louisiana. And that might have to do with a recent trifecta of party switches among state legislators.
While Alexander is the most senior of its House members, the state loses little clout with his departure. Rep. Steve Scalise already has eclipsed him terms of power wielded by his leadership of the Republican Study Group, the most influential policy-making organization of the party and therefore in the House. Seats on the Appropriations Committee such as Alexander enjoys are few, but Scalise is in a position to get on it and to get like-minded delegation colleagues on other important committees, such as Energy and Commerce that he would have to give up if he made that move. And by next term he and Reps. Charles Boustany (who is in line to be the delegation’s most senior member and already sits on the even more prestigious Ways and Means Committee) and John Fleming will be in the upper half of both chamber and party seniority. Plus, the reason he gave for his departure shows he didn’t promise to have much influence even within his own party going forward.
The Republican said he was hanging it up because “partisan posturing has created a legislative standstill” that was preventing “producing tangible solutions to better this nation.” Translation: he lacked confidence that the principles of conservatism reflect superior understanding of the human condition and thereby was willing to sacrifice some of them for government to do something, but majorities in his chamber’s party would not go so far.
How else can one explain this statement unless he was frustrated with the GOP, given his majority party in the House showed every sign of continuing control in 2014 and beyond? Problems are real, but bad solutions are worse than none at all, and that’s the only kind you would get if you started capitulating to the most insanely and intransigent set of liberals among Democrats in government in the country’s history. If he had thought that party’s intransigence and wrong-headedness was sabotaging “solutions” and his party had the answers as currently being articulated by its leaders, he would not have phrased his statement as globally as he did. For those interested in optimal solutions, not just in buckling to get any solution, good riddance to Alexander.
He didn’t vote badly for conservatives while in Congress; his career American Conservative Union score was over 77. But clearly he did not as staunchly embrace their principles if what he stated he really meant. That clearly disqualifies him for serving in times where his opponents have gone to greater lengths than ever to enact statist policy that degrades individual freedom. With this attitude, a new Republican almost can’t help but do better.
And chances are almost certain it will be a new Republican. In a district currently the proportion of registrants of which is over three-fifths whites and where white Republicans slightly outnumber black Democrats, only the most moderate and slick Democrat can win here. And that’s assuming there would be a such a white Democrat somewhere that could promise to hold the majority of white Democrats and independents in his column in an election, because no black Democrat in the state can do that and among others there are no prominent state elected Democrats in that district …
… now, but there was one a month ago. Then, state Rep. Jim Fannin switched to the GOP. At the time he said it was a divergence of the reality of his party and his principles. Kind of what state Sens. Elbert Guillory and Rick Ward said when they did the same, but now Ward has announced for the House and Guillory seems to have a plethora of options for higher office if he doesn’t choose to stay in the Senate or to retire.
It was thought at the time that Fannin might be gunning for a state Senate seat in 2015. Instead, just as he followed Alexander into his state House seat in 2004, he might now try to follow him into his U.S. House seat in 2014. Yet tempering any hopes he might have is that he is just three years younger than Alexander, and voters may hesitate to elect someone as a rookie who will be on the cusp of drawing Social Security at the time of his taking the oath of office. Other state-elected Republicans deemed interested, from a potentially large field since the district is one of the largest in land area among districted states in the country thus covers a lot of officials, include state Sens. Neil Riser and Mike Walsworth.
All three have voted more often for conservative and reform ideas, with Riser perhaps the favorite among conservatives, but if Fannin and Walsworth were to get in the race that might create an interesting problem for both and/or Gov. Bobby Jindal. That’s because Fannin has carried water exceptionally well for Jindal for the past six years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, but Walsworth is probably Jindal’s closest friend and ally in the Legislature. Jindal’s support, even as a lame duck governor, would be helpful to anyone However, with his own future in mind he may deem it more prudent to sit that one out rather than choosing one, or having to disappoint another.
Regardless, a reluctant warrior who doubts the principles of a majority of the members of his majority party is an inferior choice to a solid conservative in representing that district in the future. There’s no reason to think that one cannot succeed Alexander, who was gracious enough to announce now to allow successors time to get organized, and thus his making public now his deferral is welcome.