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Democrats win today, set up for loss tomorrow

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards won the battle, and progress in Louisiana lost. But the victory for state Democrats looms Pyrrhic.

In the historic veto override session, Republicans were unable to override Edwards’ veto of SB 156. The commonsense bill prevents biological males, who have a genetic physical advantage over females, from competing in female-only sports at the scholastic and collegiate level that would discriminate against female competitors.

The Senate approved an override on a party-line vote, which hit right at the two-thirds threshold because Republican state Sen. Ronnie Johns took a dive. But defections and no-shows from Republicans state Sens. Louie Bernard, Patrick Connick, Fred Mills, and Rick Ward doomed other attempts as Democrats held firm.

In the House, in passage the bill had attracted support from Democrat state Reps. Chad Brown, Robbie Carter, Wilford Carter, Mac Cormier, Kenny Cox, Travis Johnson, Jeremy LaCombe, Pat Moore, and Francis Thompson. Additionally, no party Roy Daryl Adams and Malinda White voted for it, with White then a Democrat. The House’s version of Connick, GOP state Rep. Joe Stagni, was the only of his party to vote against it then.

However, almost replicating Senate Democrats’ unanimity, all of that party who voted on the override except Thompson flopped into opposition, along with Adams and with Stagni holding firm. Wilford Carter and Cox managed to absent themselves from the chamber during a lockout prior to the vote and so couldn’t – keep in mind that no vote equals a negative – while White pulled a Johns and gave notice she would ditch the entire session. The other no party member who had also voted against the bill, Stagni’s nearby neighbor Joe Marino, also took the day off. As a result, the attempt came up two votes short.

Term-limited Cox needn’t have worried, and both Carters, Travis Johnson, and Moore represent safe districts for Democrats unlikely to change much in reapportionment. It’s Brown, Cormier, and LaCombe who have courted a lot of trouble with their putting party loyalty over constituents’ wishes, and Adams will suffer blowback for his odd decision as well.

Each doesn’t serve in a district with a majority of black voters, who would provide an electoral backstop. If they try to run for reelection in 2023, expect an onslaught of ads equating them with Democrats Pres. Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for supporting the same thing and discriminating against people’s daughters. Cormier and Adams especially put themselves in a precarious situation, as they won narrowly in districts that previously had elected Republicans, and they will receive no favors from the GOP majority in redistricting.

LaCombe knew his abandonment of principle for party would land him in hot water as the vote came so when Republicans’ number two man state Rep. Tanner Magee asked for debate closure after one speaker each for and against override, he objected and pleaded to be allowed to explain his coming flip. The majority GOP, wanting to keep the pressure on, swatted that request away with ease, and now LaCombe and the other defectors will have the next two years to spin explanations of their abandonments – and when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

None of this absolves GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s conduct contributing to the failed override, especially after he guaranteed a successful vote. He could have played hardball with Stagni, and there’s a lot of leverage he has over non-party members as well. But owing his speakership to Democrats – he gained the position only with a minority of GOP support and all Democrats’ – guaranteed he would do little to twist even a few arms with the end result of having them place the people’s wishes over their party’s. He also strangely announced that there would be just one override attempt allowed, despite no rule mandating that.

With that one attempt turned back, the session collapsed as this bill was seen as the canary in the coal mine; if Democrats minus Thompson and their fellow-travelling no party comrades would hold firm on this vote, they weren’t going to budge on anything else. In that sense, with this result Edwards gained a reprieve from becoming significantly less policy relevant through 2023.

Of course, that relevance extends only to acting as a negative force: early in his term he lost the ability to set policy direction and now has become only able to stop, usually helpful, initiatives. With the session producing no policy change, he retains that for now, as discouraging as that might be to the state’s best and brightest who continue to flee in record numbers. It’s difficult to blame their refusal to hang on awhile longer.

At the same time, this incident provides some hope on the horizon for the Republican agenda. The state’s legislative Democrats have exposed themselves full-frontally as to who they are, in a manner unmistakable to voters. This issue, and others part of the veto session, will return to keep the public’s memories fresh as to who Louisiana’s Democrats really are.

As a result, a Democrat now doesn’t have a chance to win any statewide office, as 2023 voters will be reminded relentlessly about how a Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion sacrificed female equality to a radical agenda, and that such interlopers at the legislative level providing backup are just as bad, so as to require Republicans in office at all levels to ensure the people’s voices are heard.

That means Republicans most likely will capture at least two House seats to give them a supermajority and even expand their Senate supermajority by one. Beneficial policy change finally will come, if delayed. With this outcome, Louisiana Democrats won today’s policy battle but set the stage for their likely defeat by 2024 in the agenda war that will leave them virtually powerless for some time to come.

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