Republicans have gained a super majority in both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature after iconic Rep. Francis Thompson of Delhi switched his party registration following nearly 50 years of elective service as a Democrat.
Thompson’s party switch gives Republicans 70 votes in the House, the number needed to override a veto from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. The GOP already had a super majority in the Senate.
Thompson, 81, is the longest serving state legislator in Louisiana history, having first won election to the Legislature in 1974.
The Republican Party of Louisiana officially celebrated the flip at a Friday press conference.
“This is a happy day, but it’s not a decision that was made in a day,” Thompson said in an interview with USA Today Network. “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.”
Thompson, who represents District 19 in northeastern Louisiana, was among the last of the Blue Dog Democrats, more conservative members of the party who resisted changing his affiliation until now.
In a statement, Thompson said: “Let me be clear: Nothing has changed. There are values and principles that I firmly hold onto that guide my decisions. … My choice to move to the Republican Party is one that best represents my views and those of the constituents who elected me to serve them.”
The Legislature’s Regular Session begins April 10.
“Today marks a pivotal moment for the Louisiana Legislature as it has reached a super majority for the first time in our state’s history,” said Republican Erath Rep. Blake Miguez.
“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 Louis Gurvich said.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Sam Jenkins of Shreveport said the party switch was just a formality for Thompson, who Jenkins said often voted with Republicans.
“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.”
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.