Dec. 14, 2010 05:41 PM
Just two months ago, state Rep. Fred Mills was emceeing the annual Lafayette Parish Democratic Party Lifetime Achievement Awards banquet.

Just two months ago, state Rep. Fred Mills was emceeing the annual Lafayette Parish Democratic Party Lifetime Achievement Awards banquet. Today, Mills is the latest in a wave of elected officials to convert from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

The St. Martin Parish registrar of voters confirms Mills made the switch official yesterday. Mills is owner of Mills Cashway Pharmacy in Parks and branch president and chief executive officer of Farmers-Merchants Bank & Trust Co. He is completing his first term in the state legislature and is widely expected to qualify later this month to run for the District 22 state Senate seat recently vacated by Troy Hebert. (Hebert was appointed Commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Contro.).

Mills could not be reached this morning for comment. While a longtime Democrat, Mills has a relatively conservative voting record that includes a 100 percent voting percentage with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) for 2010.

His switch to the Republican Party follows that of his likely opponent in the District 22 race, state Rep. Simone Champagne of Jeanerette. Champagne made the switch in June shortly after the legislative session adjourned. Since then, other legislators have followed suit, including state Reps. Walker Hines of New Orleans and Sens. John Smith of Leesville and John Alario of Westwego. (Winnsboro state Rep. Noble Ellington is also reportedly considering the move.) With Mills, Republicans now have 52 members in the House and are within one vote of a majority for the first time since Reconstruction.