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John Alario Switch Stirs Partisan Pot


  State Sen. John Alario's switch from Democrat to Republican last week, coupled with another Democratic senatorial defection, brought the GOP to within two votes of a majority in the Upper Chamber. Alario's party change also resurrected some harsh campaign rhetoric used against him in the 2007 elections — but this time it came from Democrats, not Republicans.

  Alario made his first bid for a Senate seat in 2007 after serving nine terms in the House, two of them as House Speaker. He was forced out of the House by term limits. In the 2007 campaign, his GOP opponent and party officials lambasted him as "one of the most corrupt politicians our state has ever seen." Now they welcome him to the fold — although the arch-conservative political blog The Hayride opined that Republicans should "throw this one back."

  Democrats, who surely will miss Alario's legendary legislative prowess, took the opportunity to remind everyone of how the GOP broadsided the Westwego lawmaker in '07. In one instance, Alario's Republican opposition compared him to the HBO character Tony Soprano and even produced an ad titled "The Alarios," using the same HBO typeface and pistol graphic in Alario's name. At the time, Alario called the ad insulting to his Italian-American heritage.

  Alario won election to the Senate handily and now looks forward to campaigning for re-election and for presidency of the Senate. Current Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, is term-limited.

  Since his arrival in the Senate, Alario has voted more conservatively (read: pro-business) than he did in the House, and he has allied himself with Gov. Bobby Jindal on many key votes. The two men are said to have a good working relationship, which no doubt could help Alario if he runs for the Senate presidency.

  Other than reminding folks of how the GOP excoriated Alario three years ago, the Dems have been silent on the switch. Truth be told, Alario's first allegiance has always been to Jefferson Parish, to which he has steered many millions in capital outlay funds via his mastery of the state budgeting process.

  State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte and chair of the Democratic Caucus, noted, "If it's politically expedient, people switch parties. It's not going to change John Alario one way or the other."

  No doubt parish officials in Jefferson are hoping LaFleur is right. — Clancy DuBos

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