JACKSON — State Rep. Donnie Bell of Fulton and state Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford are far from the first Mississippi politicians to switch from the Democratic to the state’s ever strengthening Republican Party.
But they do highlight the different ways politicians have handled the switch.
Amy Tuck changed to the Republican Party late in her first term as lieutenant governor. State Rep. Herb Frierson of Poplarville switched when he was running for re-election. State Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven announced in December 2010 she would run for the post of commissioner of agriculture and commerce this year as a Republican.
Many others, such as state Ag Commissioner Lester Spell, Reps. Scott Bounds of Philadelphia and Bobby Shows of Laurel and state Sen. Ezell Lee of Picayune switched more or less in mid-stream or mid-term.
On June 1, Bell and Tollison had a choice to make. Did they want to qualify for re-election as a Republican or a Democrat? They could have walked into the state Republican Party headquarters and made the switch before their re-election effort.
Instead, they chose to run for the next four-year term as Democrats. They took campaign donations from Democratic groups. They won re-election in November as Democrats.
Less than a week later, they changed to the Republican Party.
A commitment to a political party is not and should not be a lifetime commitment. But it is interesting to see how different politicians handle the switch and let their constituents know about it.