New Iberia state Rep. Simone Champagne (District 49) announced she has changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. "I have concluded after much discussion and prayer that I can no longer affiliate myself with a party that does not reflect my core values and beliefs,” Champagne said in a statement released by the state Republican Party. “The differences between the two major parties both in Louisiana and in Washington, D.C,. have never been clearer and I must align myself with the party that most closely represents my vision for the 49th District and the future of this great state.”

Champagne made her decision known recently at an event at Landry's Seafood Steakhouse in New Iberia. State GOP Chairman Roger Villere was quick to welcome Champagne to the ranks. “With today’s decision, Rep. Champagne adds her name to a growing list of Democrats disaffected by their leadership’s pursuit of an increasingly liberal agenda,” Villere said in the release yesterday. “We’re proud to count Rep. Champagne as the newest member of the Grand Old Party."

The release also points out that Rep. Champagne's announcement and the election of a Republican to replace retiring Rep. Wayne Waddell (R-District 5) will result in the next legislative session beginning with 51 Republicans, 51 Democrats, and 3 independents.

"This is exciting news for the Republican Party of Louisiana," said Villere. "Prior to the legislative elections in 2007, Democrats had a 16-seat majority in the House of Representatives and today's announcement means that deficit has been cut to zero."

Elected to her first term in 2007, Champagne is up for re-election in 2011. Thus far, she is the second Iberia Parish legislator to bail from the Democratic Party this year. Sen. Troy Hebert recently announced his switch from Democrat to independent.

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