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State Democratic lawmakers defecting to GOP

ATLANTA — Staggering Election Day losses are not the Democratic Party's final indignity this year.

At least 13 state lawmakers in five states have defected to Republican ranks since the Nov. 2 election, adding to already huge GOP gains in state legislatures. And that number could grow as next year's legislative sessions draw near.

The defections underscore dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party — particularly in the South — and will give Republicans a stronger hand in everything from pushing a conservative fiscal and social agenda to redrawing political maps.

In Alabama, four Democrats announced last week they were joining the GOP, giving Republicans a supermajority in the House that allows them to pass legislation without any support from the other party. The party switch of a Democratic lawmaker from New Orleans handed control of Louisiana's House to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction.

In Georgia, six rural Democratic state legislators — five from the House and one in the Senate — have switched allegiance to the GOP since Nov. 2. In Maine, a House Democrat flipped; in South Dakota, a Democratic state senator.

Most of the party swaps are in the South, where GOP rule is becoming more entrenched and Democrats — many of them already more conservative than their counterparts elsewhere — are facing what looks like a long exile in the minority.

In Georgia, the GOP swept every statewide office this year and brought, in the words of state Rep. Alan Powell, "an effective end, at least for the foreseeable future, to the two-party system in state government."

Powell, 58, who served in the House for two decades as a Democrat, joined the Republican caucus this month after concluding it would allow him to get off the sidelines and again be a player on key issues. Powell has been outspoken in his criticism of both Republicans and Democrats and expects to maintain an independent streak in the GOP.

Twenty-one state legislative chambers in 16 states moved into GOP hands this year, and for some Democrats keeping a seat at the table means trading a "D" for an "R." Others, like Mike Millican of Alabama, one of those who joined the GOP last week, say that as the national Democratic Party has moved to the left, they've found themselves more in line with the Republican Party's political ideology.

The GOP picked up a whopping 690 seats Nov. 2 — the largest shift since 1966, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Republicans now control both chambers of the state Legislature as well as the governorship in 21 states.

State Democratic lawmakers defecting to GOP 11/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:25pm]

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