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Schexnayder win may prompt lame repeat

Protector of conservatism or wolf in sheep’s clothing? Louisiana will find out upon the election of Republican state Rep. Clay Schexnayder as Speaker of the House.

The election made history as for the first time the body nominated only Republicans for the job, with Republican state Rep. Sherman Mack also having his named entered.  But it displayed continuity with the past when the winning candidate secured more voted from Democrats than from Republicans.

Schexnayder prevailed 60 to 45, with all Democrats on his side. Two-thirds of Republicans voted for Mack, including about all of the party members with well-known conservative credentials. Mack also had drawn public support from two highly-placed GOP elected officials also viewed as solid conservatives, Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and Sen. John Kennedy, the leaders of a conservative PAC that had donated to the campaigns of many of the Republicans present at the vote.

In his acceptance speech, Schexnayder addressed both the issues of the ideological nature of his support and factionalism. He made it a point (as did Republican state Rep. Stuart Bishop, who placed his name in nomination) to present himself as a conservative and to stress he would act independently of outside forces, in whatever form.

His legislative service does indicate Schexnayder practices what he preaches. His Louisiana Legislature Log voting score average of 77.5 (higher scores mean more votes for conservative/reform preferences) over the past term exceeds the House average and, to a lesser extent, the House Republican average. Mack, for his part, averaged 77.75, making their ideological consistency essentially identical.

The remarks about independence referred to the attempt by conservative interests and state Republican Party to rally the party behind Mack. In the final analysis, perhaps winning over enough Republicans to Schexnayder’s side came as a result of Mack’s profession as a trial lawyer in the face of growing conservative insistence of tort reform, where they didn’t have the confidence in him to pursue that issue to their satisfaction.

But the fact that he owes his speakership to Democrats presents a troubling specter to the maxim that the majority should govern. Some believe this this could turn him into a stalking horse for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, giving the liberal governor outsized influence over a body with nearly two-thirds Republicans and mirroring the situation in the Senate over the past four years.

For its part, perhaps ironically, the Senate concluded its leadership contest with unanimous selection of Republican state Sen. Page Cortez, who appears certain to appoint consistent conservatives to positions of influence in that body’s committees. That metric will determine how to judge the likely trajectory of the House led by Schexnayder.

If Schexnayder appoints mostly Republicans and conservatives to committee chairmanships and if he puts Republican and conservative majorities, if not on all, then on most and all on important committees, then the will of this fall's electorate across the aggregate of elected representatives will be upheld. Otherwise, the state may see what it saw over the past four years — higher taxes, more spending, slower economic development that has chased nearly 100,000 people from it, and policies that discourage personal responsibility and encourage special interests to accumulate more power and privilege.

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