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Postscripts – Switch paid off for Paul Smith

If Paul Smith’s experience is any indication, switching political parties could boost the political career of Rowan County Commissioner Tina Hall.
Hall announced Friday that she was shedding her Democrat affiliation to become a Republican.
Thirty years ago, Paul Smith made the same decision while he was on the county commission ó as chairman of the majority Democrat board.
“The Democrats would prefer that I sacrifice my principles for the party,” Smith said on Nov. 1, 1979. “Today I sacrificed the party.”
The dart appeared to be aimed at the party’s leadership, not his fellow commissioners.
Jamima DeMarcus, then chairman of the county Democratic Party, was not happy. “As the officially elected head and spokesman for the Rowan County Democratic Party, I emphatically deny that our party has ever asked or suggested that Paul Smith, or anyone else for that matter, sacrifice or compromise their principles,” DeMarcus said.
She had, however, sent Smith a letter suggesting that all county appointees should be Democrats.
Smith may have been looking for a reason to switch, anyway. He had run for state Senate the previous year and lost to young Bob Davis in the Democratic primary. Smith tried again in 1980, this time as a Republican at an opportune time ó the same year Ronald Reagan won the White House. Smith was elected to the state Senate and went on to serve for some 16 years.
When the Rowan County Republican Party honored Smith with a retirement dinner in 1996, state Rep. Eugene McCombs reflected on the switch of 1979.
“The Democratic Party’s loss is our gain,” McCombs said. “I’m very glad, Paul, that you finally saw the light and came over to the Republican Party.”
– – –
The political foundations of Raleigh shook last week when state Sen. Tony Rand announced he was leaving the legislature to head the State Parole Commission. First elected in the early 1980s, the Fayetteville Democrat has been one of the most powerful members of the state Senate ó and one of its most colorful speakers.
The News & Observer recently highlighted this quote from Rand, made in 2008 as he was explaining that the top issue for then-candidate Barack Obama was not a flag lapel pin but creating jobs, energy independence and solving the problems in the Middle East:
“If we can do those things, you know, he could walk around naked as far as I’m concerned and it would be fine.”
– – –
Here’s a Factoid of the Week from the Public Forum, a N.C. education advocacy group:
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is estimated to have spent between $85 million and $100 million in his re-election bid ó enough to pay 2 percent across-the-board salary increase to North Carolina’s 95,000-plus teachers.

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