JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, May 31, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Five months ahead of the presidential election, the Democratic Party is already losing seats to Republicans, as a growing number of elected officials are changing parties over issues like the right to life, the definition of marriage, and the Obama administration’s mandate that religious institutions cover abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.
Wednesday afternoon, seven local office-holders from three Mississippi counties announced they had voted with their feet.
Each official had different reasons, but Leake County Sheriff Greg Waggoner “specifically said when [Obama] came out in favor of gay ‘marriage,’ that was the last straw,” Brett Kittredge, communications director of the Mississippi Republican Party, told LifeSiteNews.com.
“I’m a Christian, and my first allegiance is to Jesus Christ,” Sheriff Waggoner said. “God established marriage, and He established it between a man and a woman. Those are my beliefs. The Republican Party reflects my beliefs.”
His concerns echoed those of Pennsylvania Democrat-turned-Republican Jo Ann Nardelli. A lifelong Democrat, Nardelli has been active as a pro-life Democrat at the state and local level. As Matthew Archbold wrote, “She met with Hillary Clinton, gave a rosary to Joe Biden, and appeared on the cover of U.S. News and World Report going to Church with then Senate candidate Bob Casey Jr.”
But after seeing Vice President Joe Biden, who is Roman Catholic, endorse same-sex “marriage,” she said she could no longer stand by the party. “I talked to our priest,” she said. Soon she penned a resignation letter citing the party’s conflict with Catholic teaching.
“Due to personal matters and faith beliefs at this time, it is only fair to resign,” she wrote. “It is time to move forward with my life in a direction that is more in line with my faith.” At a press conference, she endorsed Mitt Romney, then switched parties.
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State and local officials are not only ones to defect from an increasingly left-wing party. Former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, an early Obama supporter who ran for governor in 2010, hinted on Tuesday that he may run for office in his new home state of Virginia. “If I were to run, it would be as a Republican,” he wrote.
“[F]aith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too,” he wrote on his blog, which he refers to as “free opposition research.”
He jabbed the administration for plunging “headfirst into a fight over contraception and Catholic hospitals” in February. “The Ninth Circuit’s ruling on gay marriage prefigures a Supreme Court ruling on the issue…a brief against big government has to also address the overreach of Washington’s pronouncing church doctrine dead.”
A Democrat who voted against the president’s health care reform, Davis said he still thinks the bill “goes further than we need and costs more than we can bear.” Entitlement reform and fiscal discipline play a role in his change of party.
Davis, who is black, also chafed at the president’s “bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured.” He has said he “despises identity politics” and calls Affirmative Action “a racial spoils system.”
That multi-pronged objection shows that many Democrats do not object to Obama but to liberalism, a problem that often sinks down to the state and local party level.
In April, Rick Murphrey, the mayor of Kings Mountain in North Carolina and a lifelong Democrat, changed party registration to the GOP based in part on the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage.” Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat, opposed Amendment One. Murphrey said that “is one of the things” he and his wife “evaluated in our decision.”
“We believe in the marriage of one man and one woman,” Murphrey said. “That is something we believe in strongly.”
New party members sometimes become active leaders in the pro-life cause. Georgia State Representative Doug McKillip of Athens – who accepted a $500 donation from Planned Parenthood in 2006 as a Democrat – introduced a bill to limit abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy earlier this year.
McKillip credits his faith with his party change. “I became a Christian in ’09,” he said. “You start reading the Bible, and you realize life begins at conception.”
In March, Texas State Representative J.M. Lozano said he was tired of being “bullied” by Democrats. Like his constituents in Jim Wells County, he cherished “pro-life, pro-business” sentiments in “my heart and my soul.”
Lozano, McKillip, Waggoner, and others join a growing exodus of centrist or right-leaning former Democrats. Two dozen state officials changed registration from Democrat to Republican in the first three months after the 2010 midterm elections.
Kittrege estimates that more than 50 Democrats in Mississippi have joined the Republican Party since January 2009.
“They cannot be affiliated any longer with the Democratic Party because of the Obama administration, and all the leaders of the Democratic Party – Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, on down the line,” Kittredge told LifeSiteNews.com.
“There is no center-right in the Democratic Party,” Davis explained to Fox host Neil Cavuto. “There is in the Republican Party.”
In response, some Democrats are asking for a less liberal abortion plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform. Former President Jimmy Carter has publicly stated party leaders should “limit [abortion] only to women whose life are in danger or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest.” Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, promises pro-lifers will lead a public witness at the convention.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told LifeSiteNews.com that abortion “is killing the Democrats in the South. Jimmy understands this. He understands the reason they lost the South is not the civil rights movement; it’s the abortion movement.”
Increasingly, it is also the marriage redefinition movement. Yet four former party chairmen and 11 state parties have called for the Democratic Party to include support for same-sex “marriage” in the party platform this summer during their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The ongoing defections show many are giving up on efforts to carve out a pro-life, pro-marriage niche in the party of Jefferson and Jackson. “I thought I could make a difference to change our party,” Nardelli said. “It didn’t work.”
“The national Democratic Party, and to a certain extent the Mississippi Democratic Party, has made it easier for us,” Kittredge told LifeSiteNews. “They almost do the work for us.”