At least one of every five Louisiana House and Senate members will be replaced when the next Legislature convenes in 2016.
Twenty-two of the 105 House members, by latest count, say they aren’t running for re-election to that chamber in the fall. On the Senate side, nine of its 39 members are in the same situation.
Term limits have hit most of those legislators. While some are running for other offices, most are closing the curtain — at least for now — on elected office.
Only six of the 21 are seeking other elected jobs. Three representatives are going for the Senate. Another representative, Gordon Dove, R-Houma, is seeking to become president of Terrebonne Parish. Democratic Sen. Sharon Broome and Republican Rep. Joel Robideaux are running for the top spots in city-parish government in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, respectively.
Two-term Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, is running for governor, creating another open House seat to be filled in the fall elections.
The 15 term-limited legislators who are not as yet running for anything include six senators and nine representatives. Some have called it quits in the election arena, but others are waiting for another opportunity.
It’s all part of the political ebb and flow every four years since the “three terms and you’re out” law kicked in with the 2007 legislative elections.
That year, more than half of the House and 40 percent of the Senate could not seek re-election. Since then, the number of term-limited members has been smaller, but the numbers are climbing again, with another crest expected in four years.
Historically, many House members often look to move to the upper chamber, and this time around, it’s no different.
Of the nine Senate seats that will open, seven are the result of term limits. One senator is running for statewide office, and one is retiring.
Both term-limited House members and those eligible to run again have their sights set on the Senate.
Broome’s north Baton Rouge-based district is coveted by term-limited Rep. Regina Barrow and first-term Rep. Dalton Honoré, both Democrats.
“I have nothing to lose because I’m termed out,” Barrow said. “I’m putting 110 percent of my effort into it. ... People who know me know I always run like I’m 10 points behind.”
Barrow has close ties to Broome, for whom she once served as a legislative assistant.
“It’s an open seat, and I’ve decided to run for it,” Honoré said. “I figure I can accomplish a lot more with a smaller group of people to work with” in the Senate.
“If I don’t run now, when am I going to run?” he asked.
So far, Barrow and Honoré are the only two House members going head to head for a Senate seat.
Four other representatives have opted to forgo House re-election bids to go after open Senate seats.
Democratic Rep. Wesley Bishop is seeking Ed Murray’s Senate seat in New Orleans. Murray is term-limited and is returning to his law practice.
Rep. Ledricka Thierry, a Democrat from Opelousas, wants Sen. Elbert Guillory’s seat. Republican Guillory is running for lieutenant governor.
Republican Rep. Richie Burford, of Stonewell, is going after Sherri Buffington’s northwest Louisiana Senate seat. She has completed three terms.
Republican Rep. Henry Burns, of Haughton, wants to follow Benton Republican Robert Adley, who says he’s going sailing after serving in the Senate since 2003 and in the House for 16 years.
It’s unusual for term-limited senators to seek open House seats, but it has been tried — both successfully and unsuccessfully — in the past. No senator has stepped up so far to declare an interest in a House seat, although Murray and Buffington have been mentioned as potential candidates.
House veterans try to parlay their legislative experience and connection with district voters to win spots in the upper chamber.
“I feel that the experience I have gained by serving in the House over the last 11 years will be very beneficial for Senate District 18 if I am elected,” said Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, who wants to replace Jody Amedee, who cannot run because of term limits.
“My experience with the Louisiana House has prepared me for further work in the state Senate,” Bishop said.
No representatives have lined up so far for the Senate seats in the toe of the Louisiana boot that are held by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, and Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Pearl River.
Nevers, a 68-year-old electrical contractor who was elected to the Senate in 2004 after one four-year term in the House, says he’s not running for another office at this time.
Term-limited Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, who sponsored the legislation that increased the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 50 cents, initially flirted with a run for Nevers’ Senate seat — he had replaced Nevers in the House — but decided no, saying he was headed home to help in a family-owned funeral home business. Republican Beth Mizell, of Franklinton, who ran a close race against Nevers four years ago, already has announced her candidacy.
Crowe won election to the Senate in 2008 and could have served another term but chose not to seek re-election.
But Crowe said that after serving two terms in the House and Senate, it was time to go home and spend more time with his family and devote more attention to his business. The 67-year-old businessman founded The File Depot, a company that now operates in seven states. “My work here is done,” he said.
Reps. Greg Cromer and Kevin Pearson, both Slidell Republicans, have been mentioned as possible candidates for Crowe’s Senate seat. But Cromer is running for re-election and eyeing a future run for mayor of Slidell, and Pearson said he’ll run for re-election to the House. Former Rep. Pete Schneider, of Lacombe, and Slidell engineer Sharon Hewitt are already in the Senate race.
Republican Reps. Erich Ponti, of Baton Rouge, and Steven Pylant, of Delhi, also opted to step down before they were required to by law.
“About six or seven months ago, my heart and mind said, ‘I’ve done my time, and it’s time to enjoy life,’ ” Ponti, a 50-year-old contractor, told the House. He resigned from his seat Friday, effective immediately.
Term-limited Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, is supporting Democratic Sen. David Heitmeier’s re-election with an eye on seeking that Senate seat in the future.
Also running for the Senate is House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, a Republican from Jonesboro whose name is on the bill that becomes the state’s annual operating budget. Fannin was a Jackson Parish police juror who won his seat in the House in March 2003. He’s now going after the Senate seat of Bob Kostelka, an 82-year-old Monroe Republican who likewise cannot run for re-election because of term limits.