BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republicans now have a two-thirds majority in both the Louisiana House and Senate after the state’s longest-serving legislature switched parties on Friday and gave the GOP the power to override governor vetoes.
Rep. Francis Thompson, who has served as a Democratic lawmaker in northeast Louisiana for nearly 50 years, changed his party registration Friday to become the 70th Republican member in the state house. The GOP already had a supermajority in the State Senate.
“The push by Democratic leaders in recent years at both the national and state levels to support certain issues is not consistent with the values and principles that are part of my Christian life,” said Thompson, 81.
Thompson, first elected in 1974, has served 12 years in the Senate and 37 years in the House of Representatives. But despite long identifying as blue, lawmakers have described his voting record as “conservative” and have moved away from his Democratic peers on notable bills.
In 2021, Thompson joined the Republicans as the only Democrat to call for the state’s first veto-repeal session — under the state’s 50-year-old constitution — in hopes of pushing through rejection of laws that would ban transgender girls ousting Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards from school sports and lifting restrictions on concealed handguns. The legislature has the constitutional authority to overrule a governor’s veto if a two-thirds vote in both chambers votes in favour. However, the session collapsed after House Republicans failed to garner enough votes.
However, last year Thompson joined the Republicans again to call for a veto override session in which the GOP successfully overturned Edwards’ veto of a congressional ticket.
“Rep. Thompson’s decision (to switch parties), while disappointing, is not surprising. He has already consulted with Republicans,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Sam Jenkins said in a written statement Friday.
Louisiana GOP Chairman Louis Gurvich described the news of the new supermajority as “historic” and that Rep. Thompson’s accession to the Republicans was “further evidence of Louisiana’s nostalgia for conservative values and a rejection of Washington’s liberal policies.” ” may be.
In the past few decades, Republicans have gained significant ground in the state of the Deep South. Until 2011, the Democrats held the majority in the legislature. Today, alongside the GOP’s supermajorities in the legislature, both of the state’s US Senators are Republicans, along with all but one of the six US Representatives.
The state has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000. Of the state’s registered voters, 39% are Democrats, 34% Republicans, and 27% have affiliated with another party or no party, according to recent data from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. In recent decades, registered Democrats have declined immensely. In 2000, Democrats made up 60% of registered voters.
Though Louisiana has turned into a reliably Red state, Governor Edwards is a Democrat — with a military background and a conservative social agenda, including his anti-abortion. Edwards cannot stand for re-election in October due to term restrictions. The upcoming legislative session, beginning April 10, will be his last session as governor.
All seats in Parliament are up for election this year. The Democratic leadership says it hopes to see more Democrats in the legislature this fall.
“We are proud of the work that House and Senate Democrats are doing,” said Katie Bernhardt, chairwoman of the Louisiana Democrats. “We believe voters will reward them in October by electing more Democrats to the legislature to break this supermajority.”
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