What pushed Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory to become a Republican was some idle talk about racism from a state Democratic Party official.
After Louisiana Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson’s assertion that opponents to Obamacare are motivated by “the race of this African-American president,” Guillory had to answer to a constituency every politician worries about — his own mother.
“‘Elbert, are you a part of this? Do you buy into this? Do you believe this?’” Guillory, in an interview with The Daily Caller, recalled his 103-year-old, life-long Democratic mother asking shortly after Peterson’s comments erupted in the press.
“I knew from that conversation on — I was ready to make the decision [to switch parties], I’d been considering it for awhile, but that tipped me over the edge right there,” he explained.
Guillory announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party on May 31 at a gathering of the black conservative @Large Conference, becoming the first black Republican state senator in Louisiana since Reconstruction, according to The Advertiser.
In a popular video released this week explaining his decision to leave, Guillory called the Democratic Party the “Party of disappointment.”
“Perhaps to me the biggest disappointment has been the way the Democratic Party has treated the black community, as though we are simply in the hip pocket of the Democrats,” he explained. “So they have not addressed…issues dealing with minority employment particularly, the condition of the black family, education, all the things that really affect the black communities across this country. Those things are just ignored.”
According to Guillory, the Democratic Party has abandoned what he believes to be American values.
“The basic American values have been abandoned, I believe, by the Democratic Party. Just to give you a couple of examples, here in Louisiana — and I speak more of Louisiana than anything else, but it is true nationally as well — but with respect to gun rights, with respect to abortion, prayer in school, with respect to marriage, family, all of those, the state party has left Louisiana behind, and they have left me behind as well,” the pro-life former Democrat told TheDC.
Guillory, who became a Democrat in 2007, explained that he voted for President Obama in 2008 but did not vote for him in 2012, though he noted that he did not vote for either of the two major candidates.
The former Democrat said that reactions to his decision have been harsh from Democrats and accepting from the people in his district.
“I had two basic reactions, one from the officials of the Democrat Party, the other from the people of my district and of Louisiana. The first reaction has been really negative,” he said. “They said some really harsh things. But from the people of my district and people across Louisiana, there has just been an outpouring of support.”
Guillory said that the people of his district did not necessarily vote for a Democrat, but for him.
“They voted for a man. They voted for my record of commitment and performance over decades of civil rights work and being a warrior for justice. That was the guy they voted for,” he said.
In recent weekends, Guillory said he has been meeting with the people of the 24th district.
“The last couple weekends I’ve gone to churches, barbershops, and filing stations, places where people gather to face my voters,” he said. “And to be honest with you two weekends ago I had one negative [reaction] and this past weekend the same man found me and came and apologized and gave me a big hug.”
He added that the Republican Party has welcomed him “warmly.” When asked about how the GOP could attract more minority voters Guillory advocated more “sensitivity.”
Of his future political ambitions Guillory said that he was focused on serving the people of the 24th district of Louisiana.
“I love my job, I love representing the people of my district and I am going to do my darnedest to be the best state senator that Louisiana ever had,” he said.