Many conservatives in Louisiana may have felt disappointment of the victory of state Rep. Clay Schexnayder over fellow Republican state Rep. Sherman Mack, for the position of House speaker. Whether that puts a significantly moderate stamp on the chamber for the next four years, dimming the already-dusky chances of significant reform legislation, tax relief, and spending restraint until 2024, as previously noted depends upon the raw material Schexnayder has for committee assignments and chairmanships.
Mack gained backing from a number of unapologetic conservatives in the chamber, which would have guaranteed the most important committees have conservatives helm them and almost all committees would have unambiguously conservative majorities. Whether Schexnayder wishes to pursue the same course, if he largely sticks to the ones that brought him to the dance he won’t quite have the same resources.
Not that it’s impossible. For all the hand-wringing the political right may engage in over the outcome, where Schexnayder’s winning coalition contains a majority of Democrats, among the GOP members who have served through at least a couple of regular sessions in the past four years, there’s not a vast difference between the blocs.
We can assume that all GOP members pretty much share the same views on social issues, and joined by a handful of Democrats means the House will decide such issues the same regardless of who won. Therefore, reviewing the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s voting scorecard, which reflects fiscal ideology, for this cohort through the past term can produce average scores for each group – 16 for Mack and 14 for Schexnayder – which then may be compared and evaluated for statistical independence.
Doing this, the average of Mack’ supporters was 90.6 (100 represents maximal fiscal conservatism) while that of Schexnayder’s was 82.6. A statistical technique that compares sample means shows the difference significant at the less than 1 percent level; i.e. 99 times out of 100 if different samples were used (these actually measure the population in this case) of these 30 split the identical way the same difference would appear. Thus, Schexnayder’s veteran GOP supporters are more moderate than the same for Mack.
Yet consider the substantive conclusion: in a sense by the numbers, the Schexnayder bloc is less than 10 percent “less” conservative than the Mack group. And a score of nearly 83 still shows significant fealty to fiscal conservativism (for their parts, both speaker candidates scored an identical 83).
So, even if Schexnayder wants to stick to his own supporters by which to assign chairmanships, some pretty conservative legislators can fit that bill. And if he disproportionately puts his GOP voters onto the more important committees, he can do it in a way that leaves solid conservative majorities.
Again, it comes back to will. If Schnexnayder truly wants to live by the words he spoke at the organizational session, that he will lead as a conservative free of outside influence, he has the means to do so within his own coterie of backers. And if by doing so he alienates the majority of his coalition, Democrats, so what? Go through a regular session pursuing a profoundly conservative agenda that tells Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to go along or get lost, and even if disgruntled Democrats say they’ll abandon him, what can they do? A session’s worth of proof this way and all Republicans would back Schexnayder and he’ll stay in power.
Schexnayder can stay true to his rhetoric or not. His committee assignments will tell all.