Five Democratic state lawmakers have defected to the Republican Party so far in 2023, part of a growing trend experts say is caused by red states becoming redder and blue states becoming bluer.
Ten state lawmakers switched parties in 2023, and six of them switched between major parties, Politico reported. Out of those six defectors from major parties, five switched from Democrat to Republican.
Just two state lawmakers changed political affiliation in all of 2022.
“In recent decades, the red states have become redder, the blue states bluer and the number of swing states has fallen dramatically,” William Galston, senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institute, told Politico. “When this happens, the minority parties lose power in the legislature and the advantages of being in the majority increase.”
Overall, 173 state lawmakers have switched parties since 1994, and 83 of them were Democrats who switched to the GOP. Just 23 switched to the Democratic Party from the Republican Party.
One of the Democrats who became a Republican this year, West Virginia lawmaker Elliott Pritt, said being a Democrat in a deep red state prevented him from getting anything done.
“Even if I were to run again and win, I would look at another term of never getting another bill passed, never getting anything done,” Pritt told Politico. “For the time I’m going to be there, I’m not going to sit there and be a lame duck and not get anything.”
West Virginia’s governor, Jim Justice, switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017, and many believe more lawmakers in the state are going to continue defecting to the GOP.
“In states like ours it’s becoming harder and harder to be a conservative Democrat,” West Virginia Democratic lawmaker Doug Skaff told Politico. “It’s really frustrating. You work really hard to do what’s right and, at the end of the day, you’re in the superminority.”
In North Carolina, party switching had significant consequences after Rep. Tricia Cotham left the Democratic Party in April, giving Republicans the two-thirds majority they needed to overpower a veto from the state’s Democratic governor.
“The modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me and to so many others throughout this state and this country,” Cotham said at a press conference.
A similar situation occurred in Louisiana this year when state Rep. Francis Thompson switched from Democrat to Republican and gave the GOP the power to override a veto from the state’s Democratic governor.
In July, Democrat Mesha Mainor sparked an uproar within her party after announcing that she would be switching to the GOP.
“When I decided to stand up on behalf of disadvantaged children in support of school choice, my Democrat colleagues didn’t stand by me,” Mainor told Fox News Digital. “They crucified me. When I decided to stand up in support of safe communities and refused to support efforts to defund the police, they didn’t back me. They abandoned me.”
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