Democrats in the Louisiana House have lost a member from their already-depleted ranks, after Rep. Malinda White, of Bogalusa, switched from Democratic to no-party.
The move gives Democrats just 33 of the 105 members in the state House. Three members have no party affiliation, including White, and Republicans still have 68, two short of a super-majority. There is also one vacancy in a Democratic district.
White’s decision comes ahead of what is expected to be a historic veto session where Republicans will try to override Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ vetoes of at least two culture war bills, including a bill targeting transgender athletes in public schools.
White said her decision to switch to no-party isn’t related to the vetoes or the veto session that legislative leaders say is likely. She said she doesn’t vote by party and is “frustrated with party politics.”
“This decision came after many years of consideration for the people I represent,” White said in a text. “It was not a snap decision but one I have struggled with for a while. Many of my colleagues knew my struggle to balance the good people I represent.”
White is part of a diminishing number of White, rural Democrats in the state Legislature. Her rural district voted 66%-33% for Donald Trump over Joe Biden in 2020, but in 2019 went narrowly for Edwards, himself a rural White Democrat who is conservative on social issues, according to pollster John Couvillon.
A majority of Louisiana voters are still registered as Democrats, even though the state regularly votes for Republicans in statewide races. Increasingly, those mostly White, conservative registered Democrats are switching to the Republican party to match their voting trends.
Edwards may need to rely heavily on the Democratic caucus in the House if he is to ward off attempts by Republicans to override his veto of a bill to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.
White declined to say where she stands on overriding his vetoes; Edwards also vetoed a bill to allow people to carry guns without permits. But he signed a measure that would allow concealed carry if the person has training. She said she is still “counting (her) district’s response.”
Rep. Sam Jenkins, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said he "respects" White's decision and told members in a text he's urging her to continue to caucus with the Democrats.
"We're going to still work with her. Malinda still shares a majority of the views that we in the Democratic caucus uphold," Jenkins said in an interview.