At a noon press conference at Mississippi Republican headquarters, the state party took the sheet off its newest additions: Seven county-level officials who were elected as Democrats officially joined the Republican Party. According to the Mississippi GOP, those officials include:
• Jones County Justice Court Judge David Lyons • Jones County Constable Mitch Sumrall • Leake County Sheriff Greg Waggoner • Leake County Coroner Randolph Scott • Leake County Supervisor Tony Smith • Leake County Justice Court Judge Ken Adcock • Newton County Sheriff Jackie Knight
Last year, three Mississippi legislators also traded their Ds for Rs. They were Rep. Jeff Smith of Columbus and Rep. Donnie Bell of Fulton, and on the Senate side, Gray Tollison of Oxford.
Update: The state Democrats have responded to the news. Here's the release from party leader Rickey Cole:
STATEMENT FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DEMOCRATIC PARTY REGARDING PARTY SWITCHERS
JACKSON-" We learned today that several local elected officials who posed as Democrats in the November 8, 2011 election have today announced themselves to be Republicans. While we strongly believe that any person should join and support the political party that best represents their interests, we find it troubling that less than six months into a new four-year term, officials who posed as Democrats last November have now decided to become Republicans, but intend to remain in the office to which they were elected as Democrats.
The Democratic Party believes that if a person of sufficient age and maturity to seek and be elected to public office arrives at some crisis of conscience that would cause him or her to abandon the party of many of the voters who elected them, then they should also exercise that conscience by resigning their office. Once resigned, then they should seek their new party's support in another election. This would allow those of their former party, whom they misled in the previous election, a chance to choose a candidate who will remain true to them. It would also allow the rank-and-file voters of their newly-chosen party to decide whether they want these officials to continue in office under their banner." said Rickey Cole, Executive Director of the Mississippi Democratic Party.
"We welcome all Democratic elected officials, and indeed all Democrats, to contact our office at any time with any concerns or questions they have about the direction of our party. We are working to improve our communications, organization, engagement and support at every level. Our doors remain open to all."