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Accompanied by his wife Donna Edwards, left, Gov. John Bel Edwards answers questions during his first press event since winning reelection Thursday Nov. 21, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La.

Elections are over. The governor is a Democrat, and the Legislature is mostly Republican.

Politicos are bracing for what divided government will mean for Louisiana over the next four years.

Some are optimistic.

Stephen Waguespack, representing the business community, and Louis Reine, representing organized labor, agree on little, but both suggested last week that because neither side won a mandate, the door is open to negotiation rather than the intransigence that marked the last four years.

“He’s not one who thinks compromise is a dirty word,” Reine said about Edwards.

The next day, Lionel Rainey III, a political consultant for right wingers who will dominate come January, declared on conservative Moon Griffon’s radio talk show: “We’re getting ready to fight a war for the next four years, and our front line of defense is going to be the Louisiana Legislature.”

The newly elected House and Senate members are, if anything, more conservative and more Republican than the legislators they are replacing.

“It’s unprecedented. The Legislature is more conservative, more pro-business than ever before,” Waguespack said.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry's political action arms helped elect 55 of the legislators in the 144-seat Louisiana Legislature.

The Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, a group run by Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, spent millions to purge Republican legislators who didn’t meet their definition of ideological purity.

Conservatives have long argued that smaller government could provide necessary services and grow the economy with lower taxes.

Republicans now hold a supermajority in the 39-seat Senate and are two seats shy in the 105-member House. With a two-thirds majority, Republicans can do pretty much as they please, overriding gubernatorial vetoes and ignoring input from Democrats on much of the legislation involving the state’s finances. But Louisiana Republicans rarely operate in unison, which Edwards and the Democrats have used to slow the GOP agenda.

Whether the 2020 class will require the seven angry special sessions outgoing legislators needed to address recurring deficits will depend on their willingness to compromise.

More than that, it will depend on how the majority views the Democratic governor. Many outgoing lawmakers saw Edwards as a great Moby Dick that needed harpooning. The more conservative members, acting like Ahab, “piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race,” to quote Herman Melville.

At least part of what happened was that the Republicans couldn’t get together on how to restructure the state’s tax system. Efforts to create a flatter, fairer tax system were killed. Lawmakers were left with only raising the state sales tax — along with service cuts and suspension of some tax breaks — to balance spending with available revenues.

Yes, it’s true that Louisiana has one of the highest corporate income taxes in the nation, outgoing Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, told a postelection analysis forum at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.

But few businesses actually pay the published rate because of a multitude of exemptions and credits. When those tax breaks are factored in, Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens for corporations. The very ones nagging lawmakers for a lower tax rate weren’t willing to give up their tax exemptions, he said.

“The whole secret to democracy is to listen to the other guy. And if you listen to him, maybe he has a good idea. And if he listens to you for a while, then maybe you have a good idea. You put those together and that’s how democracy works,” Alario said Thursday.

Barry Ivey, a conservative Republican representing Central, tried unsuccessfully to advance legislation that would change the state’s tax structures. And he says he still has “the tread marks” on his back from a bus driven by his Republican colleagues.

“We didn’t talk much about the policy. It was all about the politics,” Ivey said at the LSU forum.

Edwards made a significant misstep at the start of his term in January 2016 by embracing the tradition that Louisiana governors choose legislative leadership. The majority House Republicans rebelled and picked their own speaker.

The leadership campaign for 2020, which has been going on behind the scenes for months, will begin in earnest after Thanksgiving.

This time around, Edwards said he’s looking for legislative leaders “with whom I can work.”

He pledged to support policies, regardless of party, that are “rooted in compassion and common sense,” including the possibility of rolling back some of the sales tax increase that stabilized the state budget until June 2025. Edwards added that he would oppose anything he believes would return the state to structural deficits.

Email Mark Ballard at