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GOP wins elections battle; policy war outcome uncertain

It wasn’t Republicans’ wildest dreams met in the general election runoff for Louisiana state offices, but it should satisfy those partisans and supporters of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, and put conservatives and reformers in a good position to get needed public policy changes enacted.

At the beginning of the night, for the House the Democrats needed to win 8 of 17 contests to have a majority will Republicans had to win 11. Actually, one GOP-leaning representative already was in the bag while one of the contests was Democrat vs. Democrat-leaning independent, so among the partisan-only contests, the Democrats effectively needed only 7 of 16, and the Republicans 10 of 16. The Senate already was in Democrat control with 22 seats with 4 contests outstanding.

In the Senate, a couple of seats swapped and the other tow held, leaving a small overall GOP pickup of 1 at 15 seats. For the GOP to win the House, however, it would have to make a lot of pickups and couldn’t quite do it. Even as two of its candidates won by fewer than 100 votes, it lost several contests decided by two or three times that margin. While Republicans did pick up several Democrat-held seats and cracked 50, they lost one narrowly and just missed having a plurality in the chamber.

Even so, it appears the GOP will run things in the House. Republican State Rep. Jim Tucker declared even prior to the polls closing that he has enough votes in the House to be named Speaker (with the blessing of Jindal), meaning a majority of committee chairmen also will be from the GOP. There are enough Democrats willing to jump on the Jindal bandwagon either by inclination or from knowing they won narrowly this year to give Republicans and Jindal a working majority.

Therefore, the Senate may be Jindal’s great obstacle. Fortunately, the budget process, where the philosophical difference between the parties is the greatest, begins with the governor and then goes through the House. The Senate is left in the most reactive role to it and thus magnifies Jindal’s line-item veto power when it comes to capital outlay.

Still, because of the Democrats tenacious hold on the Senate even as 5 of 7 statewide officers are Republicans and the GOP has a working majority in the House, this will make the bolder and more needed Jindal agenda items such as tax cuts and spending reallocations potentially difficult to get enacted. Jindal will have to display some prime political skills to accomplish things many hoped he could do when voting for him.

“Reform” governors almost always have lost in reelection bids, and compounding this effort for Jindal is he promises the cleanest break ever from the politics of the past which had dragged Louisiana down. In fact, even tougher than overcoming legislative opposition may be ensuring expectations of what he can do with this Legislature do not run unrealistically high and create a negative impression of him over the next four yea

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