Republicans have gained a supermajority in the Louisiana State House after a Democratic member switched parties.
State Rep. Francis Thompson, who has represented an area of northeast Louisiana as a Democrat for almost five decades, officially moved to the Republican side on Friday, March 17. The 81-year-old lawmaker has described himself as a “conservative” and had caucused with the Republican side for some time leading up to the decision.
“Let me clear— Nothing has changed!” Thompson wrote in a press statement shared by the Louisiana Republican Party. “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.”
“My choice to move to the Republican Party is one that best represents my views and those of the constituents who elect me to serve them,” Thompson said in the update.
Thompson joined Republicans in a veto override effort in 2021 after Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed a bill requiring transgendered individuals to compete in sporting events by their biological sex. Thompson and the Republicans in the Louisiana State House also attempted to override Edwards’ veto of a bill allowing Louisiana residents over 21 to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The 2021 veto override efforts failed after House Republicans did not garner enough votes.
Thomspon joined the Republicans again in 2022 to successfully override Edwards’ veto of a congressional map.
“While Rep. Thompson’s decision (to switch parties) is disappointing, it is not surprising. He already caucused with Republicans,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Sam Jenkins said in a written statement.
Louisiana Republicans Gain Supermajority Ahead of Key Election
With Thompson’s decision to change parties, the Republican Party now holds supermajorities in the State Senate and State House ahead of the state’s legislative session, which begins on April 10.
“Today marks a pivotal moment for the Louisiana Legislature, as it has reached a supermajority for the first time in modern history,” Republican House Majority Leader Blake Miguez said on Friday. “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.”
Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich said Thompson’s decision to switch parties “is further evidence of Louisiana’s yearning for conservative values and a rejection of Washington liberal politics.”
While the state has favored Republicans in presidential elections since 2000, Democrats have maintained an edge in voter registration. Of the state’s registered voters, 39 percent are Democrats, 34 percent are Republicans, and 27 percent have registered under another party or no party, according to recent data (pdf) from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. About 60 percent of Louisiana voters were registered as Democrats in 2000.
The Republican supermajorities in both houses of Louisiana’s state legislature give Republicans better odds of moving their political agenda forward, even over the objections of the Democratic governor.
All lawmaker seats will be up for election this year. State Democratic leaders are hopeful they will see more Democrats in the Legislature this fall.
“We’re proud of the work that House and Senate Democrats are doing,” said Katie Bernhardt, the chair of the Louisiana Democrats. “We believe that voters will reward them in October, electing more Democrats to the Legislature to break this supermajority.”
Edwards is approaching the end of his second term and cannot run for reelection in the 2023 election cycle.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.