Lafayette closes up a big era in Baton Rouge

Louisiana State Capitol
Photo by Travis Gauthier

The gist: When the legislative session ends next week, it’ll sunset a period of big influence for Lafayette in Baton Rouge. 

End of an era. Lafayette has had a lot of stroke at the Capitol over the last few years, by way of Senate President Page Cortez and a delegation with plenty of seniority and chairmanships.

LFT was at the wheel when gobs of Covid relief money hit the budget. A powerful delegation was able to steer a big haul, particularly through Cortez and Rep. Stuart Bishop, who chairs the committee in charge of capital appropriations.

“Everybody has to come to somebody from Lafayette, when they want something budget-wise,” one political strategist tells The Current. 

Lafayette has scored big hauls in state funding for local projects. Take a look at a sampling of what’s in this year’s capital outlay budget, pending Senate approval.

High-profile seats aren’t new but controlling the top spot in the senate put Lafayette in the driver’s seat. Joel Robideaux, Mike Michot and Jerry Luke LeBlanc all held key money positions before the current crop, but Cortez is a trump card. 

“It’s not unusual, and we’re a little too used to it. And we don’t know what’s coming next,” another political strategist says. 

Turnover is going to be big. It’s not just the high-profile posts on their way out. Several local seats will be replaced by new faces, diminishing the area’s power in Baton Rouge. These Lafayette legislators are terming out: 

  • Cortez 
  • Bishop 
  • Rep. Jean Paul Coussan (running for state Senate) 
  • Rep. Vincent Pierre  

Lafayette’s influence in Baton Rouge hinges greatly on the governor’s race, strategists say. That hasn’t stopped legislators from tossing their hats into races to replace Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder.