BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - It was not that long ago that Louisiana's Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne stirred controversy when he endorsed John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, in the race for governor after Dardenne failed to make the runoff himself.
On Monday, Governor-Elect Edwards tapped Dardenne for a top and powerful position in his administration - that of commissioner of administration. At a Monday afternoon news conference, Dardenne insisted the job was not payback for his support of Edwards in the race against Republican David Vitter.
"Neither one of us talked about a position in the administration when I discussed with John Bel that I was going to endorse him. I asked for nothing, and he offered nothing," Dardenne said.
Dardenne served 15 years as a state senator.
"He's got to rule Louisiana as a Democrat with Republican majorities in both houses, so by picking Jay Dardenne to serve in this top post, he's now put a Republican on his team. That should certainly help with negotiations with the Legislature," FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said.
Edwards also picked Kimberly Robinson to run the Louisiana Department of Revenue. Robinson had previously served as assistant secretary of the department.
"This is a critical time for the state of Louisiana," she said.
Edwards promised an administration that is diverse. Robinson is African-American. Edwards wants New Orleans Democrat Walt Leger to be House speaker.
"Typically governors don't lose. In this case, a popular Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger has been topped by the governor to be his speaker of the House. The governor typically gets his way here. The nuance is that the Republicans are the majority in the Louisiana House of Representatives, so this will be a first and early test of the governor-elect," Sherman said.
Edwards said Monday that no time will be wasted in tackling the budget crisis of hundreds of millions of dollars.
"They are working with the administration now to gather as much information as possible about the current situation as it relates to the state's finances," he said of his appointees.
"We have to be both thoughtful, responsible and really take the best path to return to the citizens of Louisiana the proper investment for the monies that they sent to the Capitol," Robinson said.
And Dardenne, who had hoped that it would be him moving into the governor's mansion soon, said he is up for the challenge of running the day-to-day operations of an Edwards' administration.
"I will work as hard as I can to make sure that we act responsibly to benefit all the people of Louisiana," Dardenne said.