Democratic state Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans says he has the votes he needs to become the Louisiana Legislature’s next House speaker, according to WWL-TV.
The Advocate reported this week that Democratic Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards had tapped Leger as his pick for the chamber’s leader, despite a push from Republicans for a leader from the GOP, which holds a majority.
Leger, who has been serving as House speaker pro tempore, needs the backing of 53 of the House’s 105 members to move up to the top spot. Democrats hold 42 seats, while 61 members are Republicans and two are independent.
“I feel very confident that the votes are there,” Leger told WWL in his first interview on the topic.
The Advocate had reached out to Leger but he didn’t respond to multiple calls and text messages.
According to WWL’s report, his committee leaders will come from both parties, as well as having equal representation among committee assignments.
“I feel like I have the opportunity to walk the middle line and bring people together to build consensus and that’s what it’s going to take,” Leger told the New Orleans television station. “It’s a good fit at the right time and I’m just excited about the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”
Louisiana governors wield the unusual power of traditionally selecting the leaders of each chamber, as well as approving the committee heads and even key committee assignments.
Edwards was thought to be considering possibly backing a moderate Republican for the top House position. The House Republican Delegation delivered to Edwards on Monday a resolution saying they preferred one of their own serve as House speaker.
Rep. Lance Harris, who heads the GOP delegation, sent a statement to reporters pledging to work with Edwards, but noting: “We believe that an independent Republican speaker, being backed by the majority Republican Delegation, can be most effective in tackling the challenges we face.”
Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, is expected to retain his leadership post. During the most recent legislative session, senators amended their rules to allow for secret balloting for selecting the chamber president, but no challenger to Alario has emerged.
State lawmakers will meet at the Capitol on Jan. 11 to formally select House and Senate leadership. Edwards will be inaugurated governor the same day.