- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Rep. Rodney Alexander’s switch late Friday to the Republican Party brought swift and vitriolic responses among Democrats from the Bayou to the Beltway, including from his entire Washington staff that resigned in protest yesterday morning.

“He’s a traitor,” fumed Andrew Koneschusky of the Louisiana Democratic Party. “He betrayed the people who elected him to the U.S. Congress and the people who supported his re-election.”

Particularly galling to Democrats was that the first-term lawmaker waited until 15 minutes before the state’s filing deadline to switch his affiliation from Democrat to Republican, leaving Democrats no time to post strong opposition.

“A man of honor, as many before him have done, would have changed his party affiliation well before the filing deadline,” said Mr. Alexander’s former whip, Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. “He would have had the courage to face a challenger and defend the failed policies promoted by his new party.”

Democrats now must oust 12 Republicans in order to capture control of the House, a difficult task considering that political analysts have deemed only about 30 races to be competitive.

Mr. Alexander initially was registered to run for re-election as a Democrat in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, where George W. Bush received 59 percent of the vote in the 2000 election. He had rebuffed entreaties to join the Republican Party earlier this year.

“It was an act of a person without honor or integrity,” Mr. Hoyer said. “In my 24 years in Congress, I cannot recall a more deceitful, more calculated, more treacherous violation of trust — which Congressman Alexander sought and which he received — than what he had done over the past few days and months.”

Mr. Alexander, whose offices here and in Louisiana did not return phone calls yesterday, said he made the switch for the voters in his district.

“I just decided it would be best for me to switch parties, that I would be more effective in the 5th District in the state of Louisiana as a Republican,” he said Friday.

The White House said Mr. Bush called Mr. Alexander on Friday to welcome him to the party.

The last-minute switch was particularly curious because Mr. Alexander faced little opposition in his district, even as a Democrat.

“There’s nothing to suggest that he was going to suffer in the race for being a Democrat,” said Amy Walter, who covers congressional races for the Cook Political Report. “There’s no reason to think this guy was hurting.”

“What did he get for it?” asked Mr. Koneschusky. “Judas was offered 30 pieces of silver. I wonder how much Rodney Alexander got?”

Few were speculating publicly yesterday, though a poll conducted last month might have given indication.

A survey of 600 Louisiana voters found Mr. Bush a full 16 percentage points ahead of Mr. Kerry, who has been campaigning in the state. The poll by Market Research Insight had a margin of error of four percentage points in either direction.

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