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LA Senate's leader choice goes Jindal's way

Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal I take to be a sincere, honest person but there are two things I think he’s held back on. One was his assertion that he really didn’t commit to running for governor until the last year or so, rather than not long after his 2003 losing effort. The other is that he would remain uninvolved in the selection for Legislative leadership after his 2007 victory.

As I suspected not long ago, Democrat state Sen. Joel Chaisson emerged as the body’s choice for its president – even though not all of the votes are in since several incoming members’ identities remain up for grabs until after this weekend’s election. Given the other announced competitors – Democrats Joe McPherson and Robert Adley – and that there will be a moderate majority of Democrats in the body, Chaisson was by far the best choice for Jindal to succeed in getting his agenda of ethics reform and fiscal restructuring of the state through the Senate.

Neither McPherson nor Adley were suited in any way to help Jindal’s agenda. The former consistently advocated against restructuring health care to make it more efficient and effective, while the latter almost single-handedly torpedoed lukewarm ethics reform and resisted sufficient tax reduction in the last session. Chaisson has been much more open to these ideas.

Jindal said when he personally announced Chaisson had secured a majority of the Senate votes, that “We’re not here selecting a Senate president. Rather, we’re here confirming the Senate’s choice.” One wonders if “confirmation” consisted of Jindal operatives quietly informing senators that McPherson (who after the Oct. 20 primary proclaimed he already had secured enough votes to win) or Adley simply were unacceptable to Jindal, leading the rush to anoint Chaisson. That certainly would explain McPherson’s face-saving claim that he didn’t make promises like Chaisson did, causing a presumed loss of support; it’s highly unlikely, or entirely naïve, of McPherson having not done the same to win support (and he was doling out campaign funds to some candidates, which doesn’t seem too different from promising committee positions).

In fact, McPherson and Adley may get cut out of leadership in all. If Jindal really did exert some backroom influence, even indirectly, it will become evident if the majority of chairmanships go Republicans’ way and McPherson and Adley are cut out entirely (although McPherson’s current chairmanship of Health and Welfare is likely to be inherited by the Republican version of him, Republican vice chairwoman Sherri Smith Cheek who is no bargain to reform efforts).

This announcement further solidifies expectations that Republican state Rep. Jim Tucker will assume the House speakership. Whether Republican any majority party there likely will not have much of a majority to be able to force one of its partisans on the chamber, and if Jindal is flexing political muscles he will want a Republican speaker to balance a Democrat president.

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