State Sen. John Alario, a former two-time House speaker and a fixture in Democratic state politics for nearly four decades, has become a Republican.

After weeks of saying he was considering a party switch, Alario quietly made it official last week. The Westwego senator told The Times-Picayune he didn't want to make a big deal of the change so made no announcement about it.

The partisan balance in the Senate now stands at 20 Democrats and 18 Republicans, with one vacancy.

Alario says he was dissatisfied with the national Democratic Party. He's also eyeing a bid to become Senate president after next year's elections, when Republicans are expected to take majority control of the chamber