Fielding switches parties
by Aziza Jackson
TALLADEGA COUNTY — The Republican Party has welcomed state Sen. Jerry Fielding with open arms following an official announcement he made at a press conference Thursday morning at the State House in Montgomery to switch parties, an announcement already made Monday by state Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy.

The former Democrat said Monday, amid party switch allegations from Kennedy, that those allegations were “not accurate.”

Fielding now says that by “not accurate” he meant that he would not release his statement on Tuesday as Kennedy had previously predicted among other things.

“He was saying I was going to do it on Tuesday, and he was premature on when I was going to do it and I didn’t want him to tell me when I was going to make my announcement,” Fielding said.

“My position is that I had a time when I had an announcement and I wasn’t going to let anybody rush me into making it.”

Aside from specifics about what day of the week Fielding would make his announcement, Fielding vehemently denies that the hot-button issue of redistricting had any influence over his decision to switch parties.

“The Republican Party seems to and does reflect my political and moral values much more than the Democrats do at this time and I wasn’t comfortable being apart of the Democratic Party,” Fielding said.

“Redistricting would only have an impact on me if I have decided to run for re-election and that’s something I haven’t done and might not do.”

The now-predominantly Republican state legislature recently approved new legislative districts for the 2014 legislative elections, grouping Fielding’s district in Calhoun, Coosa, Elmore, and Talladega counties with more Republican-leaning areas.

“Jerry Fielding’s first act as a Republican senator was to stand in front of a room full of people and lie,” Kennedy said.

“This has everything to do with redistricting and the fact that Jerry Fielding was targeted for elimination by the Republican supermajority unless he switched parties.”

When asked by a reporter at Thursday morning’s press conference whether or not the Republican supermajority had made any promises to Fielding to entice him to switch, Fielding vehemently rejected that notion as well.

“That’s not true,” Kennedy said. “It’s my understanding and seemingly common knowledge around the State House that Fielding was promised a position as Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee if he switched parties.”

Fielding said that his decision to switch parties was simply based on timing.

“I did that because it’s the right time to do it and it’s the right thing to do. I think as I become a part of a majority party in the senate I would better be able to serve the people of District 11,” Fielding said.

“When you’re in the majority you have a better chance to get legislation passed or stop bad legislation because you have more votes in the majority than when you’re in the minority.”

Senate Republicans including, Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner, were all smiles at Thursday’s press conference as they welcomed Fielding into the Senate Republican Caucus.

“This is another reminder of how the Alabama Democratic Party is out of

touch with everyday Alabamians,” said Bill Armistead, chairman of the

Alabama Republican Party.

“Over 50 Alabama elected officials have left the Democrat ranks and joined with Republicans in the past two years because they can no longer affiliate themselves with the party of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Mark Kennedy.”

Armistead went on to say, “Mark Kennedy speaks out of two sides of his mouth. On one hand, he claims Alabama Democrats are different from national Democrats. On the other hand, he encourages Alabamians to embrace Barack Obama and believes that legislation such as Obamacare is the right course for our nation. As I have recently stated, this isn't your granddaddy's Democratic Party.

“Once again, I encourage all true conservatives to take a good hard look at

the beliefs touted by Mark Kennedy and the Alabama Democratic Party, and

I'm confident you'll find that they no longer speak for you. Conservatives

do not support abortion on demand, legalization of gay marriage, removing

God from our party platform or redistributing wealth. Mark Kennedy and the

Democrats have fully embraced the radical, liberal agenda of President

Barack Obama. This most recent announcement is just more evidence to that

fact and it's time for Alabama conservative voters to come home to the

Alabama Republican Party.

“Republican Senate leadership believes that Senator Fielding will be a

solid conservative vote, but as with previous members of the legislature

who have joined our caucus, Senator Fielding must walk the walk, and the

proof will be whether or not his voting record reflects the conservative

principles of our party.”

Even Gov. Robert Bentley got in on the action Thursday, welcoming Fielding to the Republican Party by releasing a statement.

“Jerry Fielding is an exceptional lawmaker who is highly regarded in both

the House and Senate,” Bentley said.

“We welcome Senator Fielding to the Republican Party, and we look forward to working with him as we continue our mission of creating jobs, streamlining state government, and making more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”

Fielding said that he had been discussing a party switch with Republicans for several months before accepting their invitation.

He also said that he has and will continue to serve the people of his district regardless of his party affiliation.

“I have been a Democrat for a long time, a conservative Democrat, but the Democratic Party has continued to get further and further to the left so I decided it was time for me to make a decision in that regard. Finally one last straw is going to break the camel’s back,” Fielding said.

“One thing I want to tell the people of District 11 is that whether I’m in Montgomery or Sylacauga I don’t represent party I represent the people of District 11.”

Contact Aziza Jackson at ajackson@dailyhome.com.

© 2012