For the first time in state history, Republicans attained a majority in both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature during the current term.
Today, there are 22 Republicans in the 39 member Senate. In the House, there are 57 Republicans out of 105.
Legislators shedding the Democratic Party label in advance of re-election bids tipped the scales.
State GOP leadership is intent on expanding on those majorities in Oct. 22 balloting as Democrats focus on keeping seats.
“In both chambers we have an outside shot that we could possibly get to two-thirds (GOP super-majority),” said state Republican Party executive director Jason Doré.
A two-thirds vote is important because it is needed to pass taxes, send proposed constitutional amendments along to voters and over-ride a governor’s vetoes. Two-thirds is 26 seats in the state Senate and 70 in the Louisiana House.
Democrats will try to stem the tide of GOP legislative gains and cultivate a farm team of future statewide office contenders. The party failed to field a major contender in any of the seven statewide races, assuring a GOP sweep.
State Democratic Party executive director Renee Lapeyrolerie said party officials feel confident that Democratic incumbents running for re-election will win, overcoming well-financed Republican assaults.
“They are well-known, well-respected and have great records to stand on and they are interested in representing their districts,” she said. “They are interested in public service, not in being a statistic.”
Lapeyrolerie said there is the potential for Democratic pickups in the House, but not the Senate.
Dore predicted at a minimum there would be 25 to 27 GOP senators and the number of Republican representatives would hit the mid-60s.
Already a gain of one Republican in the Senate is assured. Twenty-three seats are going GOP. Candidates either won without opposition or only Republicans are running in other district races.
The numbers aren’t nearly that high in the 105 member House, where there are 43 assured GOP seats because of uncontested races or intra-party contests.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter is raising money to help GOP candidates.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is doling out campaign contributions and endorsements to candidates he favors — mostly to Republicans but an occasional Democrat too.
“You look at each district, and based on the district which people are going to be able to help you accomplish reform in the state,” said Jindal’s chief campaign aide Timmy Teepell.
“We know in order to accomplish our legislative goals, you have to work across party lines. You cannot do it with one party,” said Teepell.
Some Democrats have helped Jindal with key issues such as state Rep. Rick Gallot of Ruston on ethics law changes. Now, Gallot who is running for the state Senate got a Jindal endorsement.
On the other hand, Jindal is endorsing Republicans against two other Democrats who successfully blocked his effort to sell and privatize state prisons — state Sen. Eric LaFleur of Ville Platte and state Rep. Robert Johnson of Marksville.
The political makeup of the next Legislature is all the talk among politicos these days.
But when it comes down to who wins, there’s one thing on which Democrat Lapeyrolerie and Republican Teepell agree.
It’s more the politics of personal relationships in local elections — not party labels.
Marsha Shuler covers party politics for The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. Email her at email@example.com.