State Senator Page Cortez

State Senator Page Cortez, R-Lafayette 

Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, was elected Senate president Monday morning by his colleagues.

"I am so humbled at the opportunity that you all have provided," Cortez said in brief remarks to the chamber.

The vote was 39-0.

Cortez succeeds outgoing state Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, who served in the Legislature for 48 years.

Two of Cortez's earlier rivals for the job – Sens. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, and Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur – nominated him for the post and moved to suspend the Senate rules that call for the election to be done by secret ballot.

Johns noted that he was one of several contenders for the Senate's top post.

"It became obvious that one man emerged from our group that convinced enough of this body that he could and should lead us," Johns said.

The vote means Cortez ascends to one of the top jobs in state government.

He will lead the Senate in negotiations with the governor and speaker of the House and decide who leads and fills Senate committees.

Cortez said after the organizational ceremony that he plans to announce committee assignments in the next week or so, with a priority on the Senate Finance Committee since Louisiana's joint budget committee is set to meet at the end of the month.

Asked how he won the job Cortez said, "My simple words to everybody was I am going to be honest with you, I am going to be fair, I am going to protect the Senate and we are going to be independent."

Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, was elected Senate president pro tem.

The 2020 regular session begins on March 9.

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.