State Rep. Noble Ellington made it official by calling himself the 53rd Republican in the House, but the irony is that policy views appeared to play a minor consideration in the decision. Over the past three years, using the ideology/reformism index from the Louisiana Legislature Log, Ellington scored 50, well below the average Republican House score of 71.96 and not too much more moderate than the House Democrat average of 44.10. (However, Ellington is the chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is composed of state legislators who back principles of free enterprise, limited government, and federalism.)
Compared to all the party switchers since the end of this year’s session still in the Legislature, Ellington is the only one who was not at or above the chamber’s average Republican score, so theirs could be argued as the correction of a misalignment in identity to label. Yet this clearly is not the case with Ellington, even as it gained him laurels from the state Republican Party’s Chairman Roger Villere who hailed the switch – again, with irony since Villere did not aggressively welcome most of the other switchers as, while they did not make a majority, they have behaved more consistently (at least in the last three years) with the party’s platform.
Rather, ambition appears as Ellington’s main goal as he has spent about three decades in elective office with plenty of opportunity to build support. He tried for the Speaker Pro-Tempore spot this spring and lost narrowly to Joel Robideaux who was backed by Speaker Jim Tucker. With Tucker facing term limits at the end of next year, Ellington has proclaimed he’s like to take that job.
Robideaux, an independent (in yet another irony, because of internecine Lafayette politics ran under that label instead of as a Republican initially and has stuck with it), if reelected probably has a better chance of getting Tucker’s spot if, as trends suggest, even more and more conservative Republicans get elected next fall who will view his conservative/reformist three-year current score of 80 much more to their liking. But with personalistic politics still playing a significant role in these kinds of decisions within the Legislature, and with a good-old-boy grandmaster like Ellington tacking with the political winds better than winners of the America’s Cup with the real thing, who knows how it will turn out?
Symbolically speaking, the confirmation of Republican House rule coming from a marginal believer pursuing opportunism may not feel satisfactory to those who see the Louisiana Republican Party as the best hope for superior public policy, and suggests the possibility that Republicans-in-Name-Only may see switching as the more viable option to exert power than sticking with Democrats. It’s up conservative/reform voters and like-minded Republican candidates to ensure these infiltrators do not dilute the promise of the conservative/reform agenda in Louisiana.