OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Louisiana Republicans have managed to gain historic power in the state after a now-former Democratic lawmaker switched parties, thanks to his previous party’s leftward march.
State Rep. Francis Thompson has announced that he will be switching parties and joining the GOP, citing the incompatibility of the Democratic Party’s positions with his Christian faith. This move has given Louisiana Republicans a supermajority in the state’s House, marking the first time in the state’s 210-year history, Newsweek reported.
With the GOP holding a supermajority in the state Senate and now also in the state House, they have the power to override any veto from Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.
“Let me clear: Nothing has changed,” Thompson said as he made his announcement. “There are values and principles that I firmly hold onto that guide my decisions. My conservative voting record over my years in the Legislature speaks for itself.
“The push the past several years by Democratic leadership on both the national and state level to support certain issues does not align with those values and principles that are a part of my Christian life,” he added.
Thompson, who voted with the GOP often and became “the longest-serving Democrat in the Louisiana state legislature,” said his decision was the result of long deliberations.
“This is a happy day, but it’s not a decision that was made in a day,” Thompson told the News Star.
Louisiana Rep. Francis Thompson announces at the state GOP headquarters that he will leave behind his longtime Democratic Party affiliation and caucus with House Republicans. The move gives the GOP a supermajority in both chambers of the #lalege pic.twitter.com/tPe8CsefbF
— James Finn (@rjamesfinn) March 17, 2023
“I’ve struggled with this and have been thinking about it for more than a year when it has become clear that the Republican Party better represents my values and philosophy today,” he added.
Republican leaders in the state said that Thompson’s move was mostly symbolic but important nonetheless.
“Today marks a pivotal moment for the Louisiana Legislature, as it has reached a supermajority for the first time in modern history,” House Majority Leader Blake Miguez said, according to Newsweek.
“Representative Thompson’s decision to change parties after 48 years sheds light on the evolving nature of political affiliations and highlights the importance of this milestone for the legislature,” he added.
“Francis having joined our ranks is further evidence of Louisiana’s yearning for conservative values and a rejection of Washington liberal politics,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich said.
“This is an open invitation for all those Louisianans who don’t know where to go,” said state Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, according to The Advocate.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Sam Jenkins of Shreveport noted that Thompson’s move was really just a formality.
“While Rep. Thompson’s decision is disappointing, it is not surprising,” Jenkins said. “Moreover, his decision does not change our focus. Louisiana families are our priority — not party politics. House Democrats are laser-focused on delivering results that improve people’s lives and move our state forward.
“We are confident that voters share our values and will elect more Democrats in October to join the fight to increase wages, improve education, and hold insurance companies accountable,” he added.
The state’s legislative session begins April 10.
According to Newsweek, from 1879 to 2004, Democrats held fewer than 70 seats in the Louisiana House for only four years. However, in the last 19 years, the number of Democrats in the House has consistently decreased.
Last month, the entire city council in a New Jersey town has switched their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, citing the “nastiness” and “vitriol” of national politics and the Dems’ increasingly leftward shift.
According to the Daily Record, town leaders in East Hanover, N.J., made the switch last week, noted Mayor Joseph Pannullo.
“Municipal leaders have a responsibility to best represent their constituents, and it is our belief this change of party is in the best interest of the community,” Pannullo said in a statement. “As the nastiness, rhetoric and social media vitriol of national politics continues to infiltrate local governance, we collectively determined this was the best course of action to keep the focus on local issues impacting our community.”