Fifty-two Democrats switched their voter registration to Republican or unaffiliated in the first three days of this week, and at least some — including County Commissioner Ricky Bullard — say their move is because of the county board of elections’ decision that Republican Sheriff Jody Greene is not a county resident.
County elections director Carla Strickland could not say how many of the switches were to Republican and how many were to unaffiliated, but she confirmed Thursday that they all were Democrats leaving their party.
The State Board of Elections updates county registration statistics on a weekly basis on Saturdays, and a listing of the changed numbers for the week will appear in Tuesday’s News Reporter. As of this past Friday, Columbus County had 11,576 registered Democrats, 7,007 Republicans and 8,963 unaffiliated voters, along with 62 Libertarians and six members of the Constitution Party.
Bullard confirmed that his switch was from Democrat to Republican, making him the second Republican commissioner on the seven-member board. Commissioner Edwin Russ changed his registration from Democrat to Republican on Dec. 10.
“It’s getting to where the Democratic Party is not like it used to be,” Bullard said Thursday to explain his switch. “It’s full of Muslims and full of people who believe in aborting babies up to the ninth month of pregnancy and even my pastor has been encouraging me to change my affiliation because of some of the Democratic Party beliefs. It was something I had planned on doing for a while. I hadn’t gone ahead and done it but, when the Jody Greene issue came up, I figured the time to do it is now.”
Columbus County Democratic Party Chairman Franklin Thurman could not be reached for comment on the changing numbers, but Republican Chairman Sammy Hinson was happy with the changes and predicted more. “It’s probably going to be a higher number,” Hinson said Thursday, “and this is going to be an ongoing process.”
County Republicans have a rally scheduled in support of Greene Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the courthouse and Hinson said people who attend that rally will be encouraged to switch their party affiliation.
“It’s a combination of what’s going on in Washington and what’s going on with the county with the sheriff’s race. People are just getting tired of it. It’s a lot of things and I think the sheriff’s race was just the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Hinson said. “I think a lot of people realize the Democratic Party is not the party it used to be and it doesn’t look like they will ever go back.”
Saturday’s courthouse rally will include speeches from Hinson and Greene, and Hinson said any elected officials who attend will be invited to speak. He estimated the event could last as long as three hours.
“People should bring their signs, their friends and their family that voted for and support Jody Greene,” Hinson said. He encouraged people to carpool because, if parking space runs out, roads cannot be blocked for parking.