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|Jindal's first power play|
(Editor's Note: This column was first published the week of Nov. 12, 2007. Its reprinting is timely in light of questions of whether Jindal possesses the temerity to run for the Republican nomination for president in the 2012 presidential race.)
The official line from Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal is he had nothing to do with members and soon-to-be members of the state Senate deciding on Paul Chaisson to serve as the next Senate president.
If that's the case, Jindal broke ranks with past governors in allowing state senators to choose their own leader.
And I'm not buying it, though that's not meant as a slap at Jindal.
It's simply an observation that Jindal wouldn't make a very good poker player.
Jindal, though, wasn't elected to play poker or play games with people's minds.
He was elected to lead.
That's exactly what Jindal did in quietly working behind the scenes to steer senators from tapping Sen. Joe McPherson as the next Senate president.
Jindal knew well that having McPherson riding herd over the Senate would set the stage for the Senate to serve as a graveyard for any and all legislation aimed at reforming Louisiana.
In other words, a McPherson presidency was out of the question. It was out of the question because McPherson, a likeable fellow, isn't what we would describe as a reform-minded individual. No, his politics are more in tune with the so-called old guard in the Legislature, or the fellows who have been calling the shots in Baton Rouge for years.
That's why Jindal and company—his soon-to-be chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, especially—worked hard in the past few weeks to find an alternative to McPherson.
They settled on Chaisson.
A self-proclaimed moderate to conservative Democrat, Chaisson is well respected among his colleagues. He's also known for being somewhat independent of the so-called old guard.
More important, Chaisson was acceptable to Jindal, and he was electable in the eyes and minds of Democrats and Republicans alike in the Senate.
Chaisson also is a senator who most likely can be counted on to take the lead on legislation the new administration will deem as important for Louisiana to change the way it conducts its business.
Though Louisiana is treading more and more toward a true Red state, or a Republican stronghold, we must remind ourselves that Democrats control the Senate in a big way.
At the very least, Democrats will hold 23 seats in the Senate once the dust settles following the Nov. 17 general elections. At best, Republicans will control 16 seats in the Senate where it takes at least 20 votes to pass legislation, or 26 votes to secure a two-thirds majority.
Those numbers don't bode well for Republicans.
That also means a Republican governor, like Jindal, must have a good working relationship with at least a handful of Democrats in the Senate to pass legislation the governor favors.
That's where Chaisson entered the picture.
In the meantime, a movement was afoot among some Republicans in the Senate to elect one of their own as president.
The one of their own in question was Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette, whose stock rose considerably with Jindal's election.
Michot is what we would call a "comer" in politics, or a public figure who's poised for higher office.
Michot never had a chance of becoming Senate president, but he played his cards right, meaning he most likely secured a powerful committee chairmanship for playing along with the plan to anoint Chaisson as president of the Senate.
Thus, don't be surprised if Michot is named chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. That's his reward for being a team player.
In the early 1970s, the voters in Louisiana adopted a new Constitution.
That blueprint for Louisiana—no pun intended—stripped the lieutenant governor of his or her duties of serving as president of the Senate in lieu of senators choosing their own leader.
Edwin Edwards was governor then.
EWE convinced the people that allowing senators to pick their own president would give the Senate some independence.
The opposite occurred.
The move gave the governor more influence over the election of a Senate president, and you can bet your last dollar that EWE knew exactly what he was doing.
And governor after governor after governor—from Edwards to Kathleen Blanco—played a significant role in deciding who would serve as Senate president.
Jindal did it, too.