State Senator Rick Ward III will step down from the Louisiana Legislature after the legislative session ends Monday, a year before term limits forced him out of office, he said in a statement. interview Wednesday.
Ward, R-Port Allen, has been a state senator for 11 years.
He said he had achieved his main goals – in particular, making more money for roads and bridges in Louisiana – and he didn’t want to pass up a good opportunity in the private sector.
Ward, 39, said his decision to leave the Senate now means he will not run for governor next year, a race he had been considering but would have fallen short of. He had planned to tout his ability to provide services that improve residents’ daily lives.
Ward wouldn’t provide many details about his next move, but said he would do public relations and lobbying work, in part with Paul Rainwater, a lobbyist in Baton Rouge who previously held senior positions in the administrations of Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, and Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican.
Rainwater’s background would fit well with Ward because Ward took a non-ideological approach in the state Senate, willing to work with Democrats and Republicans to find compromise solutions.
“I’ve been working to find common ground with other lawmakers on how to resolve the issue that’s before us,” Ward said. “Sometimes it makes the Democrats mad at you, and sometimes it makes the Republicans.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday vetoed Ward’s Senate Bill 381, which would have allowed payday lenders to make larger loans at higher interest rates. Edwards said he doesn’t believe the bill “adequately protects the public from predatory lending practices.”
Ward said he was trying to take a situation “that isn’t great” and make it “better”.
News of Ward’s departure was first reported by Jeremy Alford, of Thepolitics.com
Ward learned about politics from his father, Ricky, who for 30 years served as the district attorney for the parishes of Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee, choosing not to run for office in 2020. Tony Clayton told him Succeeded and also practices law with Rick Ward. Ward said they would continue to do so.
During his tenure in the Senate, Ward was a powerhouse behind the scenes with his ability to work well with others and move the pieces on the political spectrum. Whether he had the skills to present a compelling message to voters across the state was an open question.
Ward said he hasn’t ruled out running for another office one day.
In the meantime, he said he was most proud of helping pass legislation in 2019 that takes $50 million a year for 13 years – the money comes from a post-oil spill settlement with BP – and direct it to new roads and bridges.
Some of that money will create the La. 415 Connector, a 3-mile flyover between Interstate 10 and La. 1 in West Baton Rouge Parish. Construction on the $125 million project, which has been on the drawing board for nearly 50 years, will begin next year.
Ward pushed the legislation with State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma.
“He’s really a super nice guy,” Magee said. This makes Ward stand out, Magee added, because “you meet a lot of fake cool people in this world.”
In 2021, Ward and Magee once again worked together to secure legislative approval to redirect $300 million a year from a vehicle sales tax from the state’s general fund to transportation projects.
This will provide a stable source of funding for the new Interstate 10 bridge over the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles, a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, the extension of Interstate 49 south of Lafayette, and other projects in the whole state.
“About four years ago I set some goals to try to see some things change in the infrastructure,” Ward said.
Ward said he expects Senate Speaker Page Cortez R-Lafayette to call a special election this fall to replace him.