Rep. Walt Leger to seek speakership of state House of Representatives



Sate Rep. Walt Leger
  • Sate Rep. Walt Leger
House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, still has to survive two more regular sessions unscathed and secure re-election to District 91, but he tells Gambit he has his sights set on the big gavel in 2016.

"I will absolutely be a candidate for speaker," he said yesterday after an address to the Baton Rouge Press Club.

Other sources, however, indicate that Leger has also opened himself up to the possibility of running for statewide office in 2015. He's working closely with a communications team and a revamp of his campaign website is said to be in the works.

Leger did say Monday that he has created a niche for himself in the Lower Chamber by working across the ideological spectrum and with various groups and factions including Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, Republicans, "fiscal hawks," Democrats and members of the Black Caucus. "I consider it part of my job to create opportunities for compromise," he said.

During his speech to reporters, Leger added that this year's budget was slapped together with "sticks and bubble gum" and that the celebratory atmosphere that emerged on the session's final day was more about pomp and pageantry. That politicians of different stripes voted together wasn't enough, not without something concrete, he said, like spending reforms or more investments in ports and education. "We really just came together to get by," Leger said.

The key to moving forward, Leger said, is to build on the coalitions that were formed this year and find a way to accomplish big things with that backing. "Rather than looking at how red we are (in Louisiana) or how blue we are, we should be looking at how purple we are as a state," he said. “We need to figure out a way to work together and then fight over who gets the credit for it later.”

While he has sided with Republicans this year on occasion and quoted former President Ronald Reagan more than once from the floor of the House, Leger said he has never considered switching parties. He doubled down on that stance this week by reconfirming his support for President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). In particular, Leger took a jab at the governor and GOP for turning down the related Medicaid expansion that would have cost the state nothing during the first three years of operation. "There's no silver lining in that," he said.

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