Appropriations chairman switches to the GOP

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The chairman of the House budget-writing committee has become a Republican, a move that continues to widen the gap between the two parties in the Louisiana Legislature.

Rep. Jim Fannin, of Jonesboro, said Thursday that he switched to the GOP because he believes the Democratic Party no longer represents his political views or his constituents' views on issues such as marriage, gun rights and abortion.

"They keep going further away. I just felt like it was time to move to the other party. I'm still the same person, but they went off and left me," Fannin said in a phone interview.

Fannin, owner of a farm supply business in rural Jackson Parish, had been a Democrat since he registered to vote, but he's always been a conservative one, a Blue Dog who is anti-abortion, supportive of gun rights and conservative on many fiscal issues.

He said the Democratic Party is "not where I am politically or spiritually."

"The state Democratic Party has been unwilling to move back to the center as to where Democrats were all my life until the last 15 or so years," Fannin said. "I gave them a lot longer opportunity than most folks did."

The three-term lawmaker said his party switch won't change how he leads the House Appropriations Committee, the powerful panel that crafts the annual budget and reviews spending plans for agencies. He said he'll continue to work with legislators from both parties.

Brandee Morgan Patrick, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said Fannin completed a party change application at his parish registrar's office Wednesday.

Fannin's switch boosts Republican membership in the Louisiana House to 59 of 105 members.

He said the jump to the Republican Party wasn't prompted by Gov. Bobby Jindal or GOP leadership. He said he didn't even talk to them about the move before changing his registration.

In office since 2004, Fannin is term-limited and unable to run for re-election to his House seat, which represents part of Bienville, Jackson, Ouachita and Winn parishes in north Louisiana.