Last Modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 9:32 PM
BY ALAN BLINDER / AMERICAN PRESS
State Rep. Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, is Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pick to serve as the next speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, a move that could catapult the Calcasieu Parish lawmaker into the highest reaches of state politics. Jindal is expected to announce his endorsement Wednesday.
Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, another legislator who had hoped to ascend to the speakership, confirmed in a written statement Tuesday night that Jindal will back Kleckley in his quest to lead the House.
Kleckley, the chairman of the House Insurance Committee who is entering his final term in the lower chamber, did not respond to numerous requests for comment Tuesday.
One legislator said Jindal’s reported choice was not a surprise.
“I heard he was going to,” state Rep. John Guinn, R-Jennings said of Jindal’s selection of Kleckley. “It does not surprise me that he did it.” Guinn said he would vote for Kleckley when the full House meets to elect the speaker.
For now, Robideaux appears to have little interest in also voting for Kleckley, and he blasted Jindal for meddling in the selection of the House’s presiding officer. He called for the House to hold a public vote to elect a new speaker.
“I don’t know why the governor is in such a hurry to pressure the House to accept a speaker candidate,” Robideaux said in a statement. “We have plenty of time to have an orderly process that includes all the House members and results in a recorded vote so that the people of Louisiana can see who their representatives support for leadership.”
He also questioned if Kleckley has enough support among rank-and-file House members to win the speaker’s office.
“It is clear that Rep. Kleckley is nowhere near approaching 53 votes, the majority needed to be elected,” Robideaux’s statement said.
If he ultimately wins the speakership, Kleckley, who first won his seat in the House in 2005 and was unopposed in Saturday’s election, would become one of the state’s top power brokers. He would be the first House speaker from Southwest Louisiana since John Fournet held the post into the early 1930s. A representative from Calcasieu Parish has never held the House’s top job.
Kleckley would assume the House’s gavel from Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown. Tucker, who lost his bid to become secretary of state, is term-limited.