This one is Houma Democrat Norby Chabert, who won a special election in 2009 over Republican Brent Callas in District 20. Chabert, who comes from an old political family in Terrebonne Parish – his father Leonard J. Chabert and brother Marty Chabert both held the seat he currently holds, and Chabert pere is the namesake of the Charity Hospital campus in Houma – will reportedly announce a party switch later today.
With Chabert’s switch, there will now be 22 Republicans to 17 Democrats in the Louisiana Senate. When the current Senate took office in 2008 there were 23 Democrats and 16 Republicans. Chabert is the fourth former Democrat in the GOP caucus – following John Alario and John Smith, who switched following the November elections last year, and Jody Amedee, who flipped last week.
Chabert’s voting record in last year’s session, when he was a rookie senator, indicated a centrist orientation. LABI scored him a 55 out of 100, which would rank him 26th out of 39 senators from a pro-business standpoint. The Louisiana Family Forum, meanwhile, ranked Chabert 23rd out of 39 with a 78 percent rating.
Those numbers would indicate that Chabert would be a RINO, relatively speaking. But his record also indicates he may have the beginnings of a libertarian streak. For example, Chabert voted against a ban on smoking in public places (his side lost), and against a bill classifying texting while driving as a primary offense (his side lost that, too). On the other hand, Chabert voted to ban the carrying of guns in places of worship, in favor of a bill requiring the notification of iguana sales, against a bill allowing home-schoolers to participate as “ringers” in high school athletics and for criminalization of participants in cockfighting. Those were all majority positions, so he wasn’t alone.
Chabert is a big coastal restoration advocate, as would be expected for a state senator from Terrebonne Parish. He’s also a higher education defender and a champion for Nicholls State, where he was the director of marketing before running for the Senate.