Louisiana Inauguration Overshadowed by Football Championship
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — John Bel Edwards will be sworn in to a second term as Louisiana governor with the same pomp and circumstance of other inaugurations, but with much more sense of urgency to wrap it all up.
After the swearing-in ceremony Monday, Louisiana officials are hightailing it to New Orleans for the college football national championship game that features No. 1 LSU trying to cap off an undefeated, Heisman Trophy-winning season with a victory over No. 3 Clemson.
The Democratic governor, other statewide elected officials and many of Louisiana’s lawmakers are planning to attend the game at the Superdome in New Orleans, 80 miles away from the state Capitol. Talk of the championship has overshadowed nearly everything about Inauguration Day.
Edwards, his wife, their family and friends, along with other officials will start the inaugural festivities Monday with an invitation-only Catholic mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge, a few blocks from the capitol building.
The swearing-in ceremony will follow at 11:30 a.m. on the Louisiana Capitol steps where Edwards took his oath of office four years earlier. This time, however, inaugural planners have had to develop a backup plan to move the event into the state House chamber if the rain in Monday’s forecast disrupts an outside ceremony.
In an upending of tradition, the governor canceled the usual inaugural ball because he’ll be attending the LSU/Clemson game. Instead, Edwards and his wife Donna will host an “inauguration reception” Monday afternoon in New Orleans at the House of Blues, so supporters can celebrate the start of the governor’s second term and still make it to the national championship.
Edwards will take his oath of office at noon in a ceremony that will feature a 19-cannon salute, a flyover by F-15s with the Louisiana National Guard, prayer and hymns sung by the Centenary College, Grambling State University and Southern University choirs. Actress Lynn Whitfield, a Baton Rouge native, will read the Maya Angelou poem “Continue.”
The governor’s hand will rest on a family Bible as he’s sworn in by Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, and he’ll deliver the traditional inaugural address near the end of the ceremony.
Before Edwards raises his hand to take his oath, Louisiana’s six other Republican statewide elected officials will individually be sworn in to their latest terms: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. Nungesser also will deliver a speech.
The inauguration ceremony is open to the public, in a standing area on the Capitol grounds overlooking the steps where the swearing-in takes plan. Registration for general admission tickets is available online. But if rain forces the ceremony inside to the smaller space of the House chamber, public access will be limited.
HOUSE AND SENATE
Before the inauguration ceremony, the House and Senate will gather in their own chambers at 10 a.m., where they’ll be sworn in to the new term.
The majority-Republican Legislature will have many new faces because term limits forced out several long-time lawmakers, including the House speaker and Senate president. The 105-member House will have 45 new lawmakers, and 20 new senators will be among that chamber’s 39 members.
Sen. Page Cortez, a Lafayette Republican, appears to have locked up the vote to be the Senate’s next president. But the situation in the House is much messier, with a heated competition for House speaker between Republican Reps. Sherman Mack of Albany and Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales.
Mack is the front-runner, with backing from Landry, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and a majority of GOP House members, but he’s been unable to definitively wrap up the 53 votes needed to win the election. Negotiations among House members continued behind the scenes through the weekend.
The House and Senate also will elect new chief administrators, after long-serving House Clerk Alfred “Butch” Speer and Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp are retiring. The chambers are expected to choose women trained by Speer and Koepp for the roles, and they’ll be the first women in the jobs.
By AP reporter Melinda Deslatte