On Friday, Louisiana State Senator Elbert Guillory, elected as a Democrat, switched parties and became the first black Republican senator in his state since Reconstruction. He did this while receiving the Frederick Douglass Award from the @Large Conference, a group dedicated to recruiting black conservatives. It’s actually a switch back to the GOP for Guillory, as The Advertiser notes he was a Republican before he went Democrat to run for the House of Representatives in 2007.
His new old party is happy to have him, while his old new party is rather less pleased by the move, as related by The Advocate:
State Democratic Party executive director Stephen Handwerk called the party switch “a craven display of political opportunism.”
Handwerk called on Guillory to resign his senate seat “since he has chosen to abandon the Democratic Party values that the voters elected him to represent.”
He said Guillory is aligning himself with the party that has stood with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “failed policies and against working families in Acadiana.” He noted GOP opposition to equal pay for women and expansion of Medicaid to cover more of the state’s uninsured.
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, however, graciously stated that it was “not formed on party affiliation,” so Guillory “remains a full-fledged member.”
In fairness, I’m not crazy about mid-term party switchers myself, no matter which direction they flip in. The voters really should have something to say about that. But in a bipartisan spirit of compromise, I’ll congratulate the Democrats for scoring Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee for their team, so I can relax and enjoy Guillory’s piping-hot party-switching speech:
“As of this day, I join Frederick Douglass as a Republican” the 68-year-old Guillory said as he wrapped up a speech blistering the Democratic Party. The move is a return to Republican Party registration for Guillory.
“Today the party of disappointment has moved away from the majority of Louisiana. They have moved away from traditional values of most Americans,” Guillory said in prepared remarks. “They have left us behind on crucial issues like abortion, vouchers, 2nd Amendment rights, union control of public jobs, school prayer, family issues.”
Guillory said the biggest disappointment for him has been the party’s role in the breakdown of families.
“Their support of dependency over self-reliance, of everything but traditional marriage, of abortion on demand, their policies have encouraged the high teen birth rates, high school drop out rates, high incarceration rates and very high unemployment rates,” said Guillory. “Our self-initiative and self-reliance are sacrificed in exchange for votes for the party of disappointment.”
“The list of disappointments is long,” said Guillory, noting “the lies and cover-up at Benghazi, the IRS harassing the tea party and wiretapping and spying on reporters.”
He decried federal Democratic initiatives to stop drilling after the BP disaster as well as efforts to “confiscate all guns.”
Guillory said under Republicans the black community has “gotten some pretty good deals.”
Among them he said are fighting for black rights during and after the Civil War, helping Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pass the 1965 Civil Rights Act over the objection of most Southern Democrats, and Republican President Richard Nixon opening the doors to higher education and to government contracting for minorities.
He also had pragmatic reasons for his party switch, noting in a statement, “Most major decisions in Louisiana are made by Republicans, in a room filled with Republicans. I feel it’s best for my district that we have a presence in those rooms.”