Standing up to Jindal
Given that his was the lone dissenting vote against the new Senate president, Sen. Barrow Peacock might have thought twice before asking John Alario to take him for a ride.
Alario was at the Governor's Mansion on the day of the inauguration when he received a text message from Peacock asking if he could catch a ride to New Orleans for the BCS championship game between LSU and Alabama. “I showed it to the governor,” Alario said. “I thought it was a joke.”
It was no joke. “I didn't get a ticket to the game until late,” said Peacock, a Shreveport Republican, “and I knew he would be going that way.” Alario's son John Jr. was, and took Peacock along.
Later, the freshman senator explained his vote against Alario as a promise he made to voters when the issue came up in his Senate race. The conservative Republicans he was chasing distrusted Alario, the former Democrat who was twice speaker of the House under former Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Alario is not going to criticize a man for how he gets elected, and he hopes the unpleasantness is behind them. “If he will give me a millimeter of a chance, he will find out we are not such bad people,” Alario said.
Peacock agreed. “We'll have our differences, but we can still be colleagues and be sociable.”
A millimeter, however, is about what Peacock got in committee assignments, to the least sought-after Retirement and Labor committees. Their relationship might blossom one day, but, for now, Alario can ill afford to let such uppityness go unpunished. “He could have done better, obviously,” he said.
What happened to Peacock is a cautionary tale to other freshman lawmakers about the consequences for those who defy the order of things as deigned by the governor. As Joel Robideaux did.
The third-term Lafayette Republican voted with colleagues for Rep. Chuck Kleckley, a Lake Charles Republican, as speaker of the House, but not before Robideaux defiantly and publicly pressed his race against the governor's choice.
When Jindal blessed Kleckley just after the primary elections, Robideaux railed that it reeked of old-style Louisiana politics at its worst. “This shadowy, backroom way of doing things has been part of the governor's power since the days of Huey Long, continuing through Gov. Edwards to the present day,” read Robideaux's news statement.
Rather than rally to his fighting words, colleagues began consigning Robideaux's fate to that of past buried foes of Long and Edwards, and few wanted to go down with him on a record vote. So all were relieved when he finally relented, thus allowing the division of the spoils, the speaker's selection of committee chairmen, in close consultation with the governor, to proceed without rancor.
With the Appropriations Committee promised again to Rep. Jim Fannin, a Jonesboro Democrat, the biggest remaining prize was chairmanship of the Ways & Means Committee, where the state construction budget bill, known as capital outlay, starts.
Speculation of who would get that post revolved around which legislator in which region had most obsequiously demonstrated his allegiance to Jindal. So the selection of Robideaux as chairman was no small surprise.
So which is it, from Peacock to Robideaux, that defying the governor and his leaders wins you—retribution or respect? Their cases were different. Robideaux held out but, unlike Peacock, eventually went along.
Also, veteran Robideaux, elected speaker pro tem last term, is well regarded as capable, astute and, as a senior member of Ways & Means, well qualified to take the gavel. Robid-?eaux has some muscle, while Peacock, at this point in his Senate career, has only feathers.
But this is also about Jindal. Robideaux is not the first to discover that if you bring something to a fight, this governor would just as soon avoid one. That could be more so going forward. The governor is at the peak of his power now, but, as the second term wears on, lame-duck status inevitably sets in.
The more Jindal looks to extend his career beyond Baton Rouge, the more he will want things to go smoothly at the State Capitol, and the more he might concede to keep the peace. Lawmakers who are paying attention might be looking for where they would take a stand. Yet they should pick their fights wisely if they want to get more than a ride to New Orleans.
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