9 county officials switch parties

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nine elected officials in Covington County have changed their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, the local GOP announced last night.

Local Republicans met at PowerSouth last night, where party chairman Bill Blocker made the announcement.

Blocker welcomed Circuit Judge Lex Short, District Judge Trippy McGuire, Sheriff Dennis Meeks, Commissioner Bragg Carter, Coroner Norman Hobson, and Covington County Board of Education members Lynda Powell, Jeff Bailey, Jimmy Rodgers and John Clark.

Meeks, Hobson and Carter were not at the meeting.

“We wanted to make sure they were not RINOs (Republicans in name only), so I designed a declaration statement,” Blocker said, adding that he asked those changing parties to sign the statement before he would announce they had changed parties.

The declaration reads:

“I hereby declare that I am a sitting elected official and that I am switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

“I endorse and will actively support the principles of the Republican Party, including (but not all inclusive) pro-life, pro-family, pro-free enterprise strong defense and less intrusive government.”

Blocker said his party didn’t make formal pitches to Democrats about switching parties, but sent letters to those he’d heard were interested in crossing the aisle.

Blocker told party members that all but one of their candidates prevailed in local races in November, and “he got 46 percent of the vote.”

After the election, he said, he began to hear from local Democratic elected officials.

“Some of them were looking at the Democratic party with Barrack Obama as head of that party and saying, ‘That’s not me. That’s not what I signed up for.’ ”

While party-changing has been common in the wake of the November election in which the Republicans swept state offices, Blocker said in an interview after the meeting that he’s being told from state party officials that what’s happened in Covington County is “unprecedented.”

There are now three elected Democrats in Covington County – Commissioner Harold Elmore, Revenue Commissioner Janice Hart, and Circuit Clerk Roger Powell, and one elected Independent, Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan.