Democrat Governor Powerless As GOP Takes Control

The state of Louisiana saw a historic shift on Friday, as the longest-serving legislator in the state, Rep. Francis Thompson, switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican. This move gives the GOP a two-thirds supermajority in both the Louisiana House and Senate, giving them the power to override gubernatorial vetoes.

Thompson, 81, has served in the state’s legislature for nearly 50 years, with 12 years in the Senate and 37 years in the House. He described his voting record as “conservative” and has strayed from his Democratic counterparts on notable bills. In 2021, Thompson joined Republicans in calling for the state’s first veto override session, with the hopes of overturning Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rejection of bills that would ban transgender girls from school sports and remove restrictions on concealed handguns. Last year, he joined Republicans to call for a veto override session, in which the GOP successfully overturned Edwards’ veto of a congressional map.

The move has been met with disappointment from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Sam Jenkins, who stated in a written statement that “Rep. Thompson’s decision (to switch parties) is disappointing, but not surprising. He already caucused with Republicans”.

Louisiana GOP Chairman Louis Gurvich described news of the new supermajority as “historic” and that Rep. Thompson joining Republicans is “further evidence of Louisiana’s yearning for conservative values and a rejection of Washington liberal politics.”

Over the past few decades, Republicans have gained significant ground in the Deep South state. Up until 2011, Democrats held majorities in the Legislature. Today, along with the GOP supermajorities in the Legislature, both of the state’s U.S. senators are Republican, along with all but one of the six U.S. representatives. The state has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000. Of the state’s registered voters, 39% are Democrats, 34% are Republicans and 27% have registered under another party or no party.

Despite the party’s losses, Democratic leadership remains hopeful that they will see more Democrats in the Legislature this fall. Katie Bernhardt, the chair of the Louisiana Democrats, stated that “We’re proud of the work that House and Senate Democrats are doing…We believe that voters will reward them in October, electing more Democrats to the Legislature to break this supermajority.”

All lawmakers’ seats will be up for election this year, with Gov. Edwards unable to seek reelection in October due to term limits. The upcoming legislative session, which begins April 10, will be his last session as governor.

AP News