The longest-serving member of the Louisiana state legislature has officially switched parties from Democrat to Republican.
On Friday, Rep. Francis Thompson changed his registration to Republican after serving as a Democrat for 48 years. Thompson was first elected in 1974 and spent the next 32 years in the state House. He then served 12 years in the state Senate before returning to the House for another four years. His voting record has often been called "conservative," so he claims that his new party affiliation won't affect much.
"My conservative voting record over my years in the Legislature speaks for itself," the 81-year-old retired college professor and businessman stated, adding that he made the switch primarily because of his Christian faith.
"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," Thompson said.
Despite the radical lurch leftward by many national Democrats, Louisiana Dems have not always followed suit. Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards considers himself pro-life, and after the SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, he signed two bills which effectively banned almost all abortions in his state.
However, a year earlier, Edwards vetoed legislation designed to preserve women's sports from male infiltration. Thompson worked with Republicans to try and override that veto, but that venture ultimately failed.
Now that Thompson has switched parties, though, the Republican Party has a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate. Louisiana law requires a two-third vote in both chambers to override a governor's veto. With Thompson as the 70th Republican in the House and a solid Republican majority in the Senate, the state legislature is now fortified against a potential veto from Edwards.
Still, some conservatives are doubtful that Thompson's party switch will matter much. Local radio legend Moon Griffon responded to the news by saying, "Francis Thompson is for Francis Thompson. I guarantee you the 'The Fee' did this only because it benefitted him. Look at his district. He's just the latest in a long line of Democrats who have traded in a 'D' for an 'R' next to their name just so he can win reelection and stay in office."
A writer for the Hayride, which monitors "Southern politics and culture," expressed similar skepticism, claiming that the Louisiana GOP has "lousy leadership generally unwilling to press [the] advantage" that Thompson's 70th vote represents and that 70 votes is "not exactly a solid supermajority."
Despite the naysayers, House Majority Leader Blake Miguez is thrilled to have Thompson join the Republicans: "Francis made a personal choice to switch parties, influenced by his faith and his perception that the Democratic Party no longer aligns with his values. As a person of faith, he found the Republican Party to be more compatible with his principles, a sentiment shared by many Louisianians. This is a meaningful decision for a veteran legislator who has witnessed numerous shifts in our state's political landscape, and we extend a warm welcome to him in our party."
Nor are Thompson's former colleagues in the Democratic Party shocked by the move. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Sam Jenkins said in a statement, "While Rep. Thompson’s decision is disappointing, it is not surprising. He already caucused with Republicans."
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