“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided to become a member of the Republican Party,” said state Rep. Billy Chandler Friday upon dumping his long-time affiliation with the Louisiana Democrat Party and embracing a Republican identity. “That party’s philosophy is more attuned to both my constituents and mine, which is conservative in nature. Our core values are the core values of the Republican Party. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interest of my district to align myself with the party that best reflects our beliefs.”
Chandler’s switch gives the GOP a bare majority in the Louisiana House of Representatives. In the 105-seat House, there are 53 Republicans with Chandler’s flip. Two seats are vacant, four House members classify themselves as independents and 46 seats are filled by Democrats.
Chandler, a 73-year old insurance agent who graduated from Louisiana College, has been in his current seat since winning a 2006 special election. He won a full term the next year and is in position to run for a second full term. Chandler’s seat, representing parts of Grant, LaSalle, Rapides, and Winn parishes, has never been held by a Republican.
In Chandler, the GOP is getting a politician whose voting record in the House could charitably be described as lukewarm in its conservatism. LABI scored Chandler a 63 for the 2010 legislative session, and his three-year score from 2008-10 is just 66. That latter score ties him for 61st in the 105-member House in terms of business-friendly voting. The key blemishes included a vote in favor of the state’s final budget, which contained a large amount of one-time revenue plugged in and some $2 billion in inflated spending. Chandler’s vote was with the majority. But Chandler also got negative marks from LABI for his vote against HB 1033, a bill strengthening merit evaluations on public school teachers.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Family Forum gave Chandler an 88 for the 2010 session, with their only negative score coming for his vote on the final budget.