Could Central Louisiana have a chance at La. House Speakership?

Two Central Louisiana state representatives are vying for state House speaker, which could put the region in a position to have the first Speaker in 40 years.
Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 8:04 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2023 at 8:06 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (KALB) - In January, the state will inaugurate a new governor and new state legislature, meaning the election of new leadership in each chamber.

For Central Louisiana, the possibility of electing a representative from the region to the role of House speaker presents a unique opportunity.

The House speaker wields the power to call up legislation, appoint committee chairs and steer the direction of the body. Historically, that would benefit the speaker’s region. Over the years, Central and North Louisiana have experienced a depleting population, which in turn has led to less representation in the state legislature. Oftentimes, that has made it difficult to fund new initiatives, businesses and infrastructure. Regional House members say it is time they have fair representation in leadership.

Over the past 40 years, only two members have come from districts north of Interstate 10.

“If geography really matters, and I think it does, I think it’s very significant in leadership within the state of Louisiana,” said State Rep. Jack McFarland (R-Winnfield). “I think this is our opportunity.”

Our state is at an important moment in history. We’re gonna look back at this moment and it’s going to define the state of Louisiana for the next 50 years. And I really believe that,” said State Rep. Daryl Deshotel (R-Marksville). “We’re gonna have a Republican governor, a supermajority in the House, a supermajority in the Senate. So, it’s important that we stop doing things the same way we’ve been doing them.”

Of the candidates vying for House speaker, two come from Central Louisiana. State Rep. McFarland and State Rep. Deshotel are considered to be among the top contenders, according to our media partners at Louisiana Illuminator.

“Central Louisiana and North Louisiana has been left out of the legislative process for quite some time,” said Deshotel.

Deshotel has a business background, having owned a technology company. If elected to House speaker, he wants to run the House like a CEO would run a business.

“We really need to put more emphasis into our staffing and our personnel and being able to help our fellow legislators become more successful,” explained Deshotel, which he believes would make the legislative process more efficient.

Deshotel just finished his first term in the House, soon to begin his second term after having won reelection in October. Deshotel sees that as an advantage, saying he is more beholden to members and constituents than someone in their final term in office.

McFarland would disagree.

“It doesn’t seem like a big difference but it is. That experience matters,” said McFarland.

The Winnfield-based member was reelected to his third and final term in the House. Throughout his time in office, the timber company owner has rising through the ranks to chair the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development, as well as the Conservative Caucus.

McFarland has long held a conservative stance fiscally and socially, but he believes his experience gives him a leg up.

“My ability to communicate with everyone and to be more receptive and the view by many of those individuals within the legislature, that although I am conservative but very practical in my approach and in my conversations with each one of them,” said McFarland.

Regardless of their differences, both McFarland and Deshotel agree that it is time their region has a place at the leadership table.

“If you look at traditionally where the speakers were from, those areas of the state did better as far as legislation, appropriations, fiscal matters,” explained McFarland.

“You know I will definitely represent all of the state and still represent those areas, but of course, my heart is in Central Louisiana,” said Deshotel. “And I will do everything I can to promote Central Louisiana and give us some opportunities to succeed.”

State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Pineville) hopes to play a part in bringing more opportunity to the region through a different leadership position in the House.

“Regardless of who becomes speaker, if I could be pro temp, I’m hoping that would elevate, and it traditionally does, elevate the opportunity for my district and for the Central Louisiana district,” said Johnson.

Johnson is placing a bid for speaker pro tempore, a position that is second-in-command in the House. He has already been involved in the House speaker race, leading the effort to unite House Republicans to back only one candidate for speakership. He hopes the House can avoid the chaotic election of a speaker like that of the U.S. House.

“The fact that we were able to get 100% of every single Republican, I think sent a signal that I can work with anybody,” said Johnson.

Johnson believes he can continue to unite members in the role of speaker pro tempore, working as a liaison between the speaker and the whole chamber.

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