Editor’s Note: A joint column by LAGOP Chairman Louis Gurvich and Sen. Conrad Appel
It has been almost a week since the elections, so let us briefly review the make-up of the new legislature and surveil Louisiana’s political landscape as we prepare for the pivotal year 2020:
First the math- the new legislature will have twenty-seven Republicans, twelve Democrats, and zero independents in the Louisiana Senate; sixty-eight Republicans, thirty-five Democrats, and two independents in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Thus ninety-five of the one hundred and forty-four Louisiana legislators (66%) will be Republican, a new high in modern times.
Clearly the results reflect a major rightward shift in voter sentiment and big gains for the Republican Party given those increased numbers and the more conservative ideological affinity of most of the new Republican legislators. To add insult to injury, the Democrats lost several of their brightest stars and leaders in both chambers, without electing any apparent successors of comparable ability.
The Louisiana Supreme Court and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will continue to feature solid Republican majorities. All six of the seven statewide elected Republican officials were easily re-elected by an average of about 62% of the votes cast, not counting the Republican-on-Republican race for Insurance Commissioner, wherein the Democrats did not even field a major candidate.
Unfortunately, Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards eked out a win over a political newcomer, with just over 51% of the vote. This represents a decline of about 5% in his margin of victory in 2015, but it was a victory nonetheless. The November gubernatorial run-off is the one major outlier in the rightward shift in Louisiana politics obvious in virtually all of the state’s other races.
And there are the new numbers and the political landscape of Louisiana as we prepare to bring in the New Year. So what must we do to consolidate these gains in the face of an activist liberal Governor?
As we’ve discussed, with the one great exception Republicans registered great victories in October and November, especially in the legislature. Now the hard work of consolidating our newly won conservative gains into functioning majorities in both chambers begins.
Or rather we should more properly say that it has already begun, even though the legislators will not even be sworn in until January 13, 2020.
The reason? Well, in the coming weeks the legislators will be engaged in the “deal-making” which will ultimately decide the choice of leadership in both houses.
In case you didn’t know, the President of the Louisiana Senate and the Speaker of the Louisiana House choose the committee chairs and assign members to the various committees in each chamber. They have enormous power to implement or obstruct a conservative agenda, and although their elections must take place on the floor of their respective chambers, the votes will be taken by secret ballot in the Senate.
Although the number of Democrat legislators has diminished, they will be ordered by John Bel Edwards to vote for the new legislative leaders in a block, and he will want something in return for this support. SO BEWARE- a President of the Senate or a Speaker of the House who has sold his or her independence to the Governor in return for twelve Democrat votes in the Senate or thirty-five Democrat votes in the House, can be no friend to a conservative agenda.
The Governor’s demands will include a disproportionate share of committee chairmanships and vice-chairmanships, and committee chairs can slow or obstruct legislation before their committees. The Governor will also demand that some key committees have an excess proportion of Democrats or perhaps even a Democrat majority, which committees would be used to amend or kill conservative bills outright, without their ever reaching the floor of the chamber.
No doubt such maneuvering for votes will be disguised as calls for “bipartisanship” by the Governor and his Democrat allies, but the people have spoken and this Legislature should be openly and honestly run by conservative Republican majorities led by conservative Republican leaders. If the Governor chooses to veto conservative legislation and risk a veto-override, that is his prerogative, but the public will at least know where he stands.
This is a most critical time, perhaps the most critical time of the next four years. Electing a senate president or a House speaker who has sold out to the Governor will make our hard-won majorities meaningless, and we must not let that happen! And it doesn’t have to happen. You, as a Louisiana citizen and voter, can help prevent any back room deals with the Governor from ever being made.
We urge you today to reach out to your senator and representative and demand that they vote for true conservatives to lead each chamber. Ask them a simple question: Do you stand with the Governor and his Democrat allies, or do you stand with an independent legislature which will abide by the wishes of its conservative majorities? And be sure to let them know that any Republican Senate or House leader elected primarily by Democrat votes will cause an uproar among conservatives!