…and as of last night it wasn’t a done deal that Sherman Mack would be the man becoming House Speaker. Our last understanding of the race, which will finish at 10:00 a.m. today with a vote on the House floor, had Mack, a Republican lawyer from Albany in Livingston Parish, with 52 votes and needing just one more to cross the finish line.
As of Sunday, though, Mack was sitting with 49 Republicans, one independent – that being Roy Daryl Adams of Clinton – and two Democrats: Patrick Jefferson and Cedric Glover, both from Shreveport. He’s had on-again, off-again commitments from a number of others, only one of which he’ll need to come through and the race would be over.
Mack’s potential speakership has been controversial within conservative circles since the Speaker race began. That’s because Mack, who’s probably best described as a country lawyer whose practice involves practically every kind of law, whether it’s wills, family law, business law, criminal defense and, yes, suing people for car wrecks and personal injury cases, has in the past been an opponent of tort reform.
He’s also not somebody who’s been front and center as a leader in the conservative movement during his first two terms in the legislature. Watchers at the Capitol will tell you he isn’t even all that well known, because he doesn’t make the Capitol social scene and he’s not all that frequent a speaker at events put on by the various politically connected groups. The joke goes that Sherman Mack is in the car headed back to Livingston Parish before the gavel even drops at the end of a legislative session day.
That isn’t an altogether bad thing, but it has potentially hindered Mack in his efforts to make people believe he’s inevitable.
But for whatever shortcomings Mack might have had as a conservative lawmaker, the leadership team which has surrounded him is full of the people one would expect a conservative to cultivate. Among the people who’ll be holding top positions on committees and legislative leadership spots, apparently, are Blake Miguez, Alan Seabaugh, Jack McFarland, Rick Edmonds and Mark Wright. With those folks in the inner circle, Mack’s speakership should reflect (1) independence from Gov. John Bel Edwards and (2) a commitment to fiscal and economic conservatism.
But there are 19 Republicans who are not currently on board with Mack, at least as of our conversations yesterday. Who those 19 Republicans go for is a question. The other most prominent option seems to be Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales), who may or may not be positioning himself as the Republican Edwards installs as Speaker.
If Schexnayder were to get all 19 of the non-Mack Republicans on his team, and that isn’t a guarantee as we understand, he would need 34 others. That would mean running the table first with the other independent, Joe Marino (we understand Marino is likely to vote for Schexnayder), and then getting 33 of the 35 Democrats. If Schexnayder gets all of them but Glover and Jefferson, he gets to 53 and a Republican Speaker would owe his position to John Bel Edwards.
This possibility was apparently real enough yesterday that Rep. Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), who is on Mack’s side, posted this on Facebook…
The bet here is one or more of the Republicans who’ve been seen to be on the fence will end up with Mack, and he’ll get to 53. Whether it’s John Stefanski, Mike Huval, Ryan Bourriaque, Chris Turner, Wayne McMahen, Larry Bagley or Les Farnum, all of whom have been talked about as potential swing voters, or perhaps Ray Garofalo, who’s ideologically a good fit for Mack but isn’t a particular fan since Mack opposed him on a tort reform bill six years ago and who is holding himself out as a long-shot third option for Speaker (at this point if Mack can’t get to 53 and there’s a stalemate it’s quite likely that McFarland would be the one to pick up the standard and carry it to 53 votes), somebody will put Mack over the top.
But either way he won’t be doing it solely with Republicans, which was the ask Sen. John Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry, not to mention this site and several others, had made. It’s likely Democrats will have played a part in choosing Louisiana’s Speaker of the House despite 68 of the 105 members of the body elected by the public are Republicans.
And if it plays out that way it’s a bad look for both the Speaker and the body, not to mention the state of Louisiana’s political leadership. Not a satisfactory process, regardless of how its result plays out.