The Republicans Are Beginning To Coalesce Around Potential Speaker Candidates…

…but the chances are still fairly good that Walt Leger will pick off the nine votes he needs to become a Democrat Speaker of a Republican House.

Last week there were at least seven candidates for Speaker on the Republican side, but Thomas Carmody, Steve Carter, Taylor Barras, John Schroeder and Chris Broadwater have all backed out.

That leaves Cameron Henry and Johnny Berthelot as the remaining speaker candidates on the GOP side.

Henry, might be the likely candidate. The question is whether he’ll stay in the fight if it looks hopeless and therefore offer Republicans an opportunity to vote against a Democrat for Speaker. It’s seen as a disaster if a Republican House were to unanimously vote for a Democrat Speaker. And that’s why, we’re told, Berthelot has left his name in the mix – he’s committed to stay in it until the finish, even if that means he would get only a smattering of votes should GOP resistance break down.

The question is whether the Republican delegation stands behind Henry. Last week 51 of them signed a statement in solidarity with a Republican Speaker running a Republican-majority House, with 10 members missing the delegation meeting that produced that statement. The majority of those members missing the meeting are regarded as “solid.”

We’re told by multiple sources within the delegation that despite claims the contrary Leger does not have a majority and is short of the nine Republican votes he needs, and furthermore many of the votes he does have are very soft and can be turned.

Meanwhile, Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards is meeting with Republican House members today, Wednesday and Friday in an effort to build a majority for Leger.

His meetings aren’t restricted to those members who might vote for Leger, though; reportedly he’s attempting to find areas of common ground and/or allies on specific issues he wants to work with Republicans on. Or, alternatively we’re told, he’s making threats.

The Republican members from which Edwards and Leger are trying to coax nine votes are the following, according to our sources:

Steve Pylant (Winnsboro)
*Rob Shadoin (Ruston)
Joe Lopinto (Metairie)
Bryan Adams (Gretna)
Stephanie Hilferty (New Orleans)
*Tanner Magee (Houma)
Paula Davis (Baton Rouge)
*J. Rogers Pope (Denham Springs)
Thomas Wilmott (Kenner)
Bubba Chaney (Rayville)
Chris Leopold (Belle Chasse)
Frank Hoffman (West Monroe)

Asterisked names are those who we can’t confirm were at the meeting at which the pledge to vote for a Republican Speaker was made.

Henry – or whoever the Republican needs four out of this 12 in order to keep the Speakership in Republican hands.

UPDATE: Johnny Berthelot just circulated an email declaring he was dropping out of the race, which leaves us with Cameron Henry as the GOP candidate. It’s a R-vs-D, Henry-vs-Leger cage match at this point, with a potentially historic result in that for the first time in modern state history the governor might not actually be able to pick the leadership of the House.

So the question is, do House Republicans have enough collective will to make history?



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