Louisiana’s governor and legislators officially take office on Monday, beginning a new term for the state’s sharply divided government.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, was narrowly reelected in November, defeating first-time Republican candidate Eddie Rispone by about 40,000 votes out of more than 1.5 million votes cast. Edwards is the only Louisiana Democrat who holds a statewide elected office.
Voters paired Edwards with a heavily Republican legislature that Southern University political science professor Albert Samuels has described as probably the most conservative the state has had in 100 years. Republicans hold two-thirds of the state Senate, though they came up two seats short of winning a veto-proof House supermajority.
On Monday, those legislators will convene to elect their leaders. Historically, Louisiana governors have been able to virtually dictate the outcome of those elections, though Edwards has not had that luxury.
The next leaders of both chambers undoubtedly will be Republicans. Sen. Page Cortez of Lafayette is widely believed to have the race for Senate president sewn up.
Rep. Sherman Mack of Albany has the backing of most Republicans, so he will be the next House speaker if his party votes as a block. Rep. Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales also is seeking the post.
The governor’s inauguration is planned for 11:30 a.m. Monday on the State Capitol steps, though it may be moved inside to the House chamber, as possible thunderstorms are in the forecast.
The legislature’s organizational session begins at 10 a.m. Monday and must end by Wednesday.