House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise took his own victory tour this week when area Republicans came to honor him as their Man of the Year. An early supporter of President-elect Donald Trump and nationally recognized as a conservative leader, Scalise will have Trump’s ear and the ability to shape legislation to benefit Louisiana.
In his introduction of Scalise, long-time friend Jeb Bruneau reflected on Scalise’s early political days at LSU where he was twice served as speaker of LSU’s student government association. After a brief career as a systems engineer, Scalise was elected to the Louisiana House in 1996 and later to the State Senate before winning an easy race for Congress in 2008. His district includes a slice of Uptown New Orleans and Lakeview as well as all or parts of Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Terrebonne Parishes.
“It’s an exciting time for our state in Washington,” said Scalise. “We’ve had a rough eight years fighting and scrapping every day to stop more bad things from happening to our country.”
Scalise spoke of his frustration about trying to work with President Obama on many issues including what he considered appropriate health care legislation. Under President-elect Trump, Scalise envisions immediate changes to Obamacare and a defunding of Planned Parenthood.
“This will be only the third time a Republican president has come into office with a Republican majority House and Senate. The last time it lasted eight months. God delivered this opportunity for us. We need to take full advantage of it,” Scalise explained. Scalise said it is easy to sell Louisiana to other members of Congress. “Everyone wants to visit here.”
Scalise commented he will always remember where he came from and thanked his friends for their long-time support. “Let’s keep praying for our country.”
Attendees included a broad range of elected officials such as Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, Jefferson Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer, State Senators Conrad Appel and Danny Martiny, newly-elected State Rep. Polly Thomas, State Rep. Julie Stokes who is considering the race for State Treasurer, and former Jefferson Parish President John Young who says he still has one more race in him.
Others in the audience included many members of the Orleans and Jefferson Republican Executive Committees as well as state Republican party chair Roger Villere, lobbyists Adrian Bruneau and Brian Trascher, former U.S. Senate candidate Abhay Patel, former State Rep. Jeff Arnold, former City Council member Scott Shea, former Appeals Court Judge David Williams, former Kenner Mayor Phil Capitano, lawyer Alan Yacoubian, and Lakeview activist Joe Giarrusso III.
Scalise’s network on Republican leaders around the country will serve Louisiana well during this next session. As former chair of the 170-member Republican Study Committee and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Scalise will be active in determining a new national energy strategy and in national defense issues. Scalise was a big supporter of the Restore Act which is bringing billions to Louisiana for coastal restoration in the aftermath of the BP Oil Spill.
Scalise also has close ties with at least one nationally prominent Democrat – New Orleans Congressman Cedric Richmond, newly elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Though Democrats are generally out of power across the country, Richmond will be working across the aisle with Scalise to keep New Orleans on the President’s radar screen and help shape a new agenda for the Democratic Party.
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Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are Foster Campbell, Regina Bartholomew, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.