ANALYSIS: Same governor, changing dynamics in Louisiana politics

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana’s new House leader has something his predecessor did not — a mandate crossing party lines.

Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales), a former race car driver, won his latest race Monday, becoming the state’s new Speaker of the House. His victory over Rep. Sherman Mack (R-Albany) came with ample support from Democrats, who did not have a nominee of their own for the role.

“We don’t always agree about politics,” Schexnayder told House members Monday after taking his oath of office. “But we will all agree that Louisiana has its best days ahead of it.”

The incoming speaker succeeds Rep. Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia), whose rise to the job marked the first time House members went against a governor’s pick. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards had endorsed Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans).

“Four years ago, the governor comes out of Inauguration Day knowing he has a speaker that he probably won’t be able to work with for the next four years,” political analyst Jeremy Alford told BRProud.com. “This go-around, the governor most certainly has somebody he can work with.”

But despite seemingly calmer ties between Edwards and the House speakership, another kind of tension could arise: inner-party discord, as Republicans hold more House seats than ever.

“One side effect is that Republicans eventually have to eat their own if they want to move up the leadership ladder,” Alford said.

The Senate’s leadership vote went more quietly Monday. Senators unanimously named Lafayette Republican Page Cortez their new Senate President. Cortez was the lone candidate remaining in the race, with past hopefuls throwing support behind him.

State lawmakers will start their annual legislative session March 9.

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