BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Democratic Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said Wednesday he's jumping to the Republican Party because it's more in line with his political beliefs, a move that gives the GOP control of all Louisiana's statewide elected posts.
“I understand that many are watching and interested in the dynamics of this change, and will speculate upon it for some time. The truth is that this change of party is in line with thousands of everyday people who simply feel more comfortable with most of what the Republican Party represents locally and nationally,'' Caldwell said in a statement.
Up for re-election this year in a state trending increasingly Republican, Caldwell is the latest high-profile Louisiana politician to join the GOP. His switch leaves the Democratic Party without any statewide elected officials.
The change was not unexpected.
Caldwell was the only Democratic attorney general to support a challenge to President Barack Obama's health overhaul and has sided with Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal on several legal issues, leading to repeated speculation he would trade parties.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, the state's top Democratic official, said she was confident the Democratic Party will find a strong candidate to challenge Caldwell in the fall election.
“Buddy Caldwell was elected attorney general with strong backing from Democratic supporters, including many African-American voters. It is disappointing to see him turn away from this support,'' Landrieu said in a statement.
Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck called Caldwell a political opportunist.
Attorney general since 2008, Caldwell was a district attorney in northeast Louisiana for 29 years before his election statewide. He said national Republicans approached him about a party switch, though he said the move won't change the way he runs his office.
“Partisan politics will continue to be a non-issue with me. I will remain the same person with the same values and sensitivities, both as a public servant and as a private person. I will always endeavor to get my facts straight and go where the truth and the law lead me,'' he said.
Among the top elected offices in Louisiana, Democrats still have a U.S. senator, Landrieu, and a congressman, Cedric Richmond, both of New Orleans. In 2005, Democrats held one U.S. Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and six of the state's seven statewide elected jobs.
“Without question, the GOP is now the governing party of Louisiana and that brings with it increased responsibilities. The addition of Buddy Caldwell will increase our ability to meet those responsibilities,'' Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger Villere said in an e-mail.
The state Democratic Party lost nearly all the top races on the ballot in November and surrendered majority control of the Louisiana House of Representatives in December after several lawmakers switched parties.
Two state senators also recently jumped to the GOP, including Sen. John Alario. He is currently the lawmaker with the longest tenure, having been in the Legislature since 1972.
Meanwhile, no viable Democratic candidate has emerged to challenge Jindal's re-election bid, and several longtime Democratic lawmakers are hitting their term limits in districts that might easily flip to the GOP when the incumbents aren't running.