Several years of exodus from the Lee County Republican Party continued Friday as school board member Cameron Sharpe changed his party registration to Democratic, the Rant has learned.
Sharpe, a two-term member of the board, was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. His departure from the local GOP leaves just one Republican, first term member Sandra Bowen, on the Lee County Board of Education.
Another Republican school board member, Wendy Carlyle, stepped down in May (subscription required) to take a position in the schools’ central office. The board has not yet filled her vacancy.
Sharpe is only the latest Republican to switch parties locally. School board members Mark Akinosho and Tamara Brogan, both elected as Republicans, switched to the Democratic Party in 2013 (subscription required). Board chairman Dr. Lynn Smith, a former Republican who spent several years as a political independent, became a Democrat in April.
In fact, only five Republicans hold public office in Lee County – Bowen, Sheriff Tracy Carter, Sanford City Councilman Charles Taylor, and Lee County Commissioners Kirk Smith and Dr. Andre Knecht.
The thinning of the local GOP herd might be explained, at least in part, by the now-infamous partisan elections bill (subscription required) which former state representative and friend of the Rant Mike Stone sprung on the Lee County Board of Education and the Sanford City Council in 2013.
Other contributing factors – and this is no more than irresponsibly wild speculation on the Rant’s part – might include offensive comments about Latinos, tragedy-exploiting attack mailers (subscription required) and conveniently-shifting positions on the issue of coal ash. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I believe the main contributing factor is that the Republican Party left these individuals rather than their having left the Republican Party. Those Republicans who did not vote in lock step with the Tea Party Republicans were classified as RINOs and were/are targets to be removed or stopped in primaries. Moderate Republicans who have the best interests of the citizens of Lee County and Sanford in their decisions and who are more concerned about school children than ideology are being welcomed by the moderate Lee County Democratic Party, which recognizes them for their integrity and concern for the residents of Lee County.
Democrats should be careful and be sure of their (switched party candidates) viewpoints. When Bunky Morgan changed to Democrat in Chatham County he didn’t change any of his conservative viewpoints.
Are DEMS not allowed to have conservative views? Dennis Wicker told a group of DEMS a couple of years ago that Democrats go to church too. I think it’s very wise for the Democratic Party to have a range of views.
Sam, you are right about the Lee Dems being a moderate party. Cameron is certainly no liberal. Being a life long Lee County resident, Cameron will do what is best for the people of Lee County, even if it’s not in line with the Republican or Democratic Party view. Also, I suspect Cameron is tired of the disrespect our Tea Party elected officials have shown our local citizens. I say welcome aboard! P.S.The Lee County Democratic Party is starting to remind me of the one I knew in the 80’s & 90’s. That’s when we built the Civic Center, Airport, Courthouse, & Schools. We refurbished the old hospital for county government offices, converted the Heins Telephone builing for school administration offices, created the waste transfer sites throughout the county, etc.