State Senate President John Alario announced Thursday that he will not seek election to his former House seat in Jefferson Parish, a decision that will conclude his remarkable career in the Louisiana Legislature nearly 50 years after it began.
“It ends the Alario era. That’s a loss of a lot of institutional knowledge,” said Bubba Henry, a former two-time speaker who helped Alario begin moving up the leadership ladder in the 1970s.
Term limits this year are ending Alario’s 12-year career in the Senate – a chamber he has led for the last eight years – but the term-limit law would have allowed him to run for the Westwego-based House seat that he previously held for 36 years.
Alario, 75, publicly flirted with such a run, but said Thursday he was going to hang it up instead.
He will complete his legislative career in January after having served 48 years – only one other lawmaker, the late B.B. "Sixty" Rayburn, of Bogalusa, served as long during the 207-year history of the Legislature – and no one other than Alario served as House speaker twice and as a Senate president twice.
Over the last four dozen years, hundreds of legislators have come and gone in Louisiana.
“This decision is not one I make lightly, but it is what I believe to be best for my family,” Alario said in a statement. “They have always been my biggest supporters and I am looking forward to spending more time with them at home and in the community.”
In an interview, Alario declined to rule out a rumored run this fall for a Jefferson Parish council-at-large seat but said it was unlikely.
“It’s not really something I’m considering at this time,” he said.
The outgoing Senate president will have to decide soon because qualifying for the council – as well as legislative races – is Aug. 6-8.
In a previous interview, he said that if he didn’t run for his former House seat, he would likely continue to play a role in Baton Rouge one way or another.
Alario’s decision not to run again for the Legislature means that conservative Republicans who have taken control of the House won’t have to contend with the most effective legislator over at least the past generation, a man who might have been elected as speaker once again with a bipartisan coalition.
Alario was a big-government Democrat until he switched to the Republican Party in 2010. Bobby Jindal, the state’s anti-tax Republican governor, chose him a year later to serve as Senate president for his second term.
Alario’s approach has been to serve the needs of the governor while making sure that his West Bank constituents received road, sewer and park upgrades.
Immediately after his election as governor in 2015, John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, tapped Alario to serve as Senate president. Alario has enraged conservatives by pushing the governor’s agenda over the past four years.
Legislators revere him, however, because he keeps his word, smooths the passage of legislation, uses well-timed quips to break tension and takes the time to learn his colleagues’ political needs. He never asks legislators to take a vote that will hurt them back home and maneuvers whenever possible to help others score at least a partial victory.
“People just seem to be attracted to him because of his talent,” said state Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who has served for 45 years and is seeking his former House seat. If Thompson wins and serves out the term, he would have served longer than Alario and Rayburn.
Alario first won election to the House from Westwego in 1972 as a Democrat, when Richard Nixon was president. His first legislative triumph was an intensely parochial one – he obtained state money to send water used to process shrimp via a pipeline to the Mississippi River.
“When people thought of Westwego back then, they thought it was a smelly place,” Alario said in an interview last month.
From 1984-88, Alario served as House speaker under Gov. Edwin Edwards and again from 1992-96 during Edwards’ final term.
On March 29, Speaker Taylor Barras strode down from his perch overseeing the Louisiana House of Representatives to the microphone on the chamb…
Over the past four years, Alario repeatedly outmaneuvered House Speaker Taylor Barras, of New Iberia, and House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, of Metairie, conservative Republicans who sought to tamp down spending.
Alario also blocked Barras’ attempt in 2018 to have the Legislature extend the Harrah’s New Orleans casino operating license for another 30 years.
Alario supported Harrah’s license renewal in 2019 but only after the casino company agreed to pay an additional $130 million over 30 years.