Lena Mitchell

LENA MITCHELL

Last week, another group of Mississippi officials announced their switch from Democrat to Republican.

Those Prentiss County officials announced their change in party affiliation in a joint press release, stating in part, “Not only does this change in party affiliation more closely reflect our conservative values and beliefs, as well as the conservative values and beliefs of a great majority of our county, it also allows us to promote Prentiss County on an even greater level.”

If Prentiss County is so overwhelmingly conservative, how did they get elected as recently as November as Democrats?

The eight officials who made the change include Sheriff Randy Tolar, Second District Supervisor Matt Murphy, Circuit Clerk Mike Kelley (from Independent), Chancery Clerk David “Bubba” Pounds, Tax Assessor Bob Maddox, Constable Harry Allen, Constable Sammy Henderson and Coroner Greg Sparks.

Certainly everyone has a right to choose the party that best reflects their personal ideology.

The problem I have with party-switchers is those who wait until after an election to announce that their “values and beliefs” no longer align with their previous party.

It makes me question why this self-revelation didn’t happen months ago, so voters could decide whether they wanted to cast their votes for these officials with their new party designation.

Better yet, if they had made their joint decision before election filing deadlines in early 2019, the county’s Democratic Party might have found other candidates whose values and beliefs do, in fact, align with the party.

Three other former Prentiss County Democrats – Fourth District Supervisor Robert Botts, Fifth District Supervisor Gary Cleveland and Justice Court Judge Kimi Kitchens – made their switch and ran in November 2019 and were re-elected to their offices as Republicans.

I don’t know if they announced the party change before the March 1, 2019, filing deadline, but Alcorn County Representative Nick Bain did not. He waited until some time in March after the filing deadline to announce his switch from Democrat to Republican, and was re-elected in November.

I recall that in 2018 Bain told a group of Prentiss, Alcorn and Tishomingo County Democrats that Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said every white Mississippi legislator should be a Republican.

Timing is everything in politics, and these Prentiss County officials joined eight other Mississippi politicians who decided to wait until February 2020, after they were re-elected in November 2019, as Democrats, to switch to the Republican Party.

My issue isn’t necessarily about politicians moving to the Republican Party. I have the same opinion of Democrats who switch parties after an election.

When people vote for candidates based on their idea that the candidate represents their political ideology, it seems to defraud people of their votes for those candidates to switch parties after they have been elected. The voters, after all, didn’t know the politicians no longer shared their “values and beliefs.”

In the next election it will be up to the voters to decide if these politicians, in making their party switches, were being truly principled, or simply opportunistic, seeing the election as about them, rather than what their constituents want and need.

LENA MITCHELL is a retired Daily Journal reporter who continues to write a regular column. Readers can contact her at lena.mitchell.dj@gmail.com.

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