Political switch gives GOP control of Louisiana House

From The Associated Press

METAIRIE, La. -- Another prominent Louisiana Democrat has officially switched his party affiliation to the GOP, giving Republicans a majority control of the state House for the first time since Reconstruction.

State Rep. Noble Ellington said last week he was "95 percent sure" he would be joining the Republican Party and GOP Chairman Roger Villere confirmed the switch Friday.

"For more than 100 years the Louisiana House of Representatives has remained under Democrat control, but today that has all come to an end," Villere said. "In just three short years a 16-seat Democrat majority has been erased and Rep. Ellington's decision to become the 53rd Republican in the House gives the GOP our first controlling majority in that body since Reconstruction.

"This is a great and historic day for the Republican Party of Louisiana and I'm pleased to welcome Rep. Ellington to the new conservative majority in the House."

Ellington had been a prominent member of the state's Democratic Party for more than 20 years. He had said he was considering the switch because he found himself moving away from "what has become the liberal philosophy of the national party."

Ellington was a state representative before being elected to the Senate, and is the 2011 chairman of the 2,000-member American Legislative Exchange Council. In April, he narrowly lost a divisive battle for speaker pro tem, the No. 2 position in the House, to Rep. Joel Robideaux.

Ellington served in the state House from 1988 to 1995, and in the state Senate from 1996 until 2007. Term limits kept him from running for the Senate again, and he won back his old House seat.

Two other state senators - John Alario of Westwego and John Smith of Leesville - also recently switched from the Democratic Party.

Alario is a former two-time House speaker and was a fixture in Democratic state politics for nearly four decades. He is serving his first term in the Senate after representing a Westwego-based House district from 1972 to 2008. He served two four-year terms as speaker under former Gov. Edwin Edwards, and chaired the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

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