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Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy

This week in politics: Johnson elected House speaker; Landry announces transition team

House Speaker Mike Johnson of La.,, center, speaks about the mass shooting in Maine, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin
Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, center, talks to the media Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Every Friday, politics reporter Molly Ryan rounds up the news of the week from the campaign trail and beyond.

Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson elected House Speaker

Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson was elected on Wednesday as the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. His election ends weeks of gridlock among House Republicans who failed to elect three candidates before Johnson, including Rep. Steve Scalise, who represents Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District.

Johnson is the first speaker from Louisiana in the nation’s history. He is also the first speaker from the South since Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich left the post in 1999.

Johnson’s election, which came as a surprise to many, means that two of the House’s top roles — House Speaker and Majority Leader — are now filled by Louisianans. That puts Louisiana in a position to have a powerful voice in Congress.

That has been celebrated by Republicans across the state, including Gov.-elect Jeff Landry who congratulated Johnson on social media, saying that Johnson “is well-liked by everyone, and he has the work ethic and tenacity to lead our country in this prestigious position. Louisiana is proud!”

Former Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander said he expects Johnson and Scalise to use their leadership positions to advocate for the oil and gas industry. Louisiana is a top oil and gas producing state.

“The fact that energy production is valuable to the state of Louisiana, I think it will certainly help us from that standpoint, with the leadership roles that members of the Louisiana delegation are assuming today,” Alexander said.

Johnson has been a doubter of the well-established climate science that links fossil fuel emissions and human actions to climate change. Both he and Scalise earlier this year voted to pass legislation called H.R. 1, a GOP-backed energy bill that Democrats warned would undermine environmental regulations nationally.

Johnson is also a conservative Christian who supports far-right conservative policies. He has opposed abortion rights, same-sex marriage and gender-affirming care.

Johnson also served on the team that defended former President Donald Trump in his first impeachment inquiry. And he voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election.

At 51, Johnson is a relatively young Congressperson. He is expected to lean on Scalise and other GOP leadership and work with them to get the House running again. It’s unclear how well Johnson will work with Democrats, but he is often described as less combative and more affable than many of his colleagues.

“He’s shown in the past that he’s willing to sit and reason,” Alexander said. “He has the understanding that not everybody thinks alike, and he doesn’t have a hostile attitude toward those that disagree with him.”

After he took the gavel Wednesday, Johnson opened his speech on the House floor by addressing Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, saying he looks forward to working with him despite their differences.

Johnson will have to work with Democrats at some point in the coming weeks to avoid a looming government shutdown.

Gov.-elect Jeff Landry announces transition team

Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry announced his transition team on Wednesday at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he said the team will be based.

Typically, transition teams are headquartered in Baton Rouge. But Landry made a point in saying that he wants to run things differently, starting with the transition. He also said Lafayette is a more accessible location for people across the state.

There are seven chairs on his team, including Landry’s wife, Sharon Landry, who was the only woman named on the leadership team. Most of the other chairs are political operatives, major donors and oil and gas industry insiders. The team will work under the direction of Kyle Ruckert, who has served as chief of staff for members of Congress.

The transition team will be responsible for planning, carrying out and monitoring the handoff between outgoing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration and the incoming Landry administration, which will officially begin in January.

Final voter registration deadline is tomorrow

Election day is just a few weeks away, on Saturday, Nov. 18. And the final voter registration deadline is tomorrow — Saturday, Oct. 28. Voters can register and check their registration status on the Secretary of State’s website.

Louisiana hosts one week of early voting, which begins on Nov. 3 and runs through Nov. 11, excluding Sunday, Nov. 5 and Friday, Nov. 10 for Veterans Day. Voters do not have to state a reason to vote early — any registered voter may choose to cast their ballot during that period. But voters will need to check the Secretary of State’s website to locate theirearly voting location, which is often different from their regular polling places.

Three statewide races — attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer — will be on November’s general election ballot, with one Democrat and one Republican in each. There will be an additional four constitutional amendments on the ballot, as well.

Locally, many voters will see state legislators, sheriffs, school board members, clerks and other public officials on the general election ballot, too. Voters can preview their general election ballots on the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, which offers a tool that allows voters to see what’s on their ballot ahead of time.

Sample ballots for the November election will be available two weeks before Election Day, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Politics news from across the state

Will Gov.-elect Jeff Landry help pick the next Louisiana House speaker? The Illuminator, Baton Rouge

With the exception of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana governors have long had a powerful voice in picking state legislative leadership. It’s unclear what role Gov.-elect Jeff Landry will have in picking that leadership. But multiple lawmakers hoping to become the next Louisiana House speaker have already met with Landry at his transition headquarters in Lafayette.

Democratic state treasurer candidate Dustin Granger calls on party chair to resignThe Advocate, Baton Rouge

Democratic state treasurer candidate Dustin Granger added his name this week to a list of Democratic figures across the state calling on the party chair, Katie Bernhardt, to resign. Granger garnered the highest percent of votes by any Democratic candidate vying for statewide office in October’s primary election.

Louisiana ranked most dangerous state, setting state for new governor to call special sessionShreveport Times, Shreveport

Louisiana continues to rank among the worst states for crime, often coming in last. Gov.-elect Jeff Landry is expected to call a special session to address crime within his first month in office. He repeated campaign promises about such a special session this week in a press conference announcing his transition team.

Every Friday afternoon, politics reporter Molly Ryan brings listeners election and politics updates live on the Capitol Access segment of All Things Considered on WWNO and WRKF.

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.