Republican Senator Cameron Henry all but sealed the deal this week after his main opponent for the top upper chamber spot, Senator Mike Reese, R-Leesville, endorsed him for Senate President. Probably more important, Landry’s team made it clear that the governor-elect favored Henry over Reese, and senators aren’t looking to cross the new gov on this important pick.
The selection of who would succeed Senator Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, as Senate president has been closely watched by political insiders because the president is typically the second most powerful elected official in state government after the governor. The new Senate president will take over in January following a formal vote by senators when the new Legislature and governor take office.
Henry, 48, is seen as being slightly more conservative than Reese, a trucking company owner and commercial real estate developer who is well liked and respected by the delegation. But Reese faced the disadvantage of being closely associated over the past four years with Cortez, a political foe of Landry’s from political spats over the years in the Acadiana region and, later, in state politics.
Henry got his start in politics as an aide to then-state Rep. Steve Scalise and has remained close with Scalise during his time as a Republican leader in Washington.
He ran to be House speaker in 2015 after winning re-election to a second term in the House, but lost to then-state Rep. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.
As a “consolation” prize, former Speaker Barras named Henry as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which writes the House's version of the state budget.
The Senate president determines which senators chair the various legislative committees as well as all of the other committee assignments. That gives senators plenty of reasons to be on Henry’s good side, even if they disagree with him on certain issues. The Senate president is also the spokesman for the upper chamber and its chief negotiator with the governor.
In the House chamber, which state representative might replace term-limited House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, remains unclear. A number of House members are vying for the top House spot (all Republicans) include Reps. Phillip DeVillier of Eunice, Beau Beaullieu of New Iberia, Jack McFarland of Jonesboro, Paula Davis of Baton Rouge, Daryl Deshotel of Hessmer and Neil Riser of Columbia.
*As a side note, if your organization covers any of the areas of the Senate and House top spot contenders, you and your board should make every effort to build a relationship with these legislators.