Friday, September 28, 2007
State Representative Kirk England switches to Democratic Party
“This is something that didn't happen one day or one moment,” he said.
State Representative Kirk England said his recent switch to the Democratic Party reflects a belief that the state's Republican leaders refuse to recognize diverse communities.
Grand Prairie TODAY
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England officially announced the change Sept. 20 at a press conference in his insurance office, saying the Republican leadership was not representative of the values of his constituents. He said he had spent 10 hours the day before calling his constituents to explain the change.
England said the response was welcoming.
“The grass-roots people who brought me here are the same ones I talked to yesterday and I'm telling you 100 percent support me on this decision,” he said. “That makes a representative feel good.”
“The Republican supporters that I have and that work for me 100 percent say ‘We are with you and we are as frustrated as you are, but don't necessarily buy me a Democrat T-shirt yet,” he added later.
He said the people he talked to had the same view of the Republican agenda “having zero tolerance for diverse districts.” And the decision has been coming for a while now.
“This is something that didn't happen one day or one moment,” he said. “This is something about half-way through my first session, that (I realized) the Republican leadership agenda did not match my community's.”
He said that coming home after the most recent legislative session and reflecting on the issue made it clear that his views were not the same as the leadership's. He shook off questions about the national political climate.
“Politics for me have always been local,” he said. “I was raised in local politics and worked in local politics, and it was only because of that that I ever decided to run for state representative. This community deserved a voice in Austin that promised to vote for its district despite party lines and the Republican Leadership does not get that.”
Key issues for England included public education, access to healthcare for children and pocketbook issues like utility bills and rates at community colleges.
“The governor didn't help things when he beat down the contribution to community colleges and shame on him for that,” he said.
State Senator Royce West was by England's side at the press conference and said the Childhood Health Insurance Program (CHIPs), public education instead of vouchers and easy access to higher education in the form of community colleges are all issues Democrats have always championed and continue to champion.
“I think Kirk hit the nail right on the head,” West said. “The Democratic Party represents a lot of diverse communities and the great thing about our party is that we do in fact encourage debate among our members to come up with a consensus in terms of what direction we need to go in.”
Unlike England, however, West said he believed that the mood of the country was changing.
“The country and its citizenry are basically saying ‘We are tired of going in the direction the Republican Party is taking us,'” he said. “I think that mood is reflective of what is going on in the state of Texas.”
West told reporters that England had broken with the party ranks to work on some issues and was open to looking at all sides of an issue.
England said that he considers himself a moderate and that he does not plan to change that because he's changed sides of the aisle.
“Switching parties is not going to change in any shape, fashion or form the way I vote,” he said. “But it became clear that the Democratic party understands the diverse state that we live in - from an urban Democrat to a rural Democrat and everything in between. I look forward to being a part of that.”
England's two-time opponent for state legislature, Katie Hubener, said England's party change was further evidence for the policies she and her family have supported for a long time.
“The reason I am a Democrat is I have been watching what has been going on in Austin and haven't been happy for some time,” Hubener said. “And Kirk England stepping over to the Democratic Party is huge, because it's true, the leadership in Austin is going in the wrong direction.”
Hubener said she does not know how this might affect any primary bid she would make for the democratic nomination.
“These are hard races as they are,” she said. “And if England wins, we of course support the Democrats in my family.”
Family ties were also on the minds of reporters at England's press conference.
Asked how his longtime Republican father, Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England, reacted to the announcement, he said “I'm going to have to have a T-shirt made for my dad that says ‘Republicans for Kirk' and ask him to wear it.”
Charles England was alongside his son at the press conference and laughed at the joke. As the two left the room, he patted his son on the back and said, “Good job.”