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Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. gives statement on party affiliation change

October 01, 2008

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. read the following statement aloud Tuesday at a press conference to announce he had changed his voter enrollment from Republican to unaffiliated:

Today, I'm announcing that I have formally changed my voter registration to Unaffiliated.

The announcement is scheduled to coincide with a House Republican Caucus in Annapolis. As they meet to plan strategy and develop positions for the upcoming General Assembly Session, I am deciding to chart a new course.

This decision was not the result of any one circumstance or single event. This decision has been coming for more than a year, the culmination of a lot of soul-searching and contemplation. I consider Tony O'Donnell, the Republican leader in the House, to be a man of immense integrity, knowledge, and personal honor. I view Speaker Mike Busch the same way, both are intense and focused. Unfortunately, their primary intense focus is on adding either Republicans or Democrats to the House of Delegates in 2 years.

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I have been a Republican since I turned 18. I have worked for Republicans running for office, supported many core principles of the Party, and I considered my two elections as a Republican to be major accomplishments in my life.

Our political system is broken. Our elected leaders define themselves by ideology, not by ideas.

So why change? Well, it's really very simple. For the rest of my time in public office, I have decided to make policy more important than politics. I have decided that the guiding principle behind the votes I will cast will be this simple question: Is it good for the people of Frederick County and Maryland?

The climate in Annapolis is such that accumulating partisan political power has replace common sense thoughtful discussions about the implications of our policy decisions.

Healthcare is a great example. Republicans would have you believe that the free market will solve the problem of access to insurance. They argue that we need to free insurers from too much oversight and regulation and let the market do its work. Democrats counter that strong government involvement and oversight and increased mandates in coverage are the answer.

In truth, both sides are equal parts right and wrong. We do need government oversight, but mandated coverage drives up costs unnecessarily. The free market will never offer a solution for the most vulnerable and medically fragile, either. That burden will always fall to the public sector.

From slot machines to budget discussions, from public safety to agriculture, the energy in Annapolis, like the energy on Capitol Hill in DC, is focused on creating partisan political division and setting up the Party for the next election.

I understand very clearly now that I have contributed to this mess by occasionally acting out of concern for retaining my Party's grip on power. In the past, I have fought against what I truly believe to be the best solution in order to "toe my Party's line". That stops today.

I could have changed my affiliation to the Democratic Party, but I am not a Democrat. There are far too many policy positions in their platform that run counter to my core beliefs. Besides that, they do exactly the same things that the Republicans do. Let me play a scenario for you that occurs every time we face a complex issue in Annapolis. Once it becomes clear a controversial issue is coming to the Floor, the Republican and Democratic Caucuses retreat into separate private meetings to design the perfect gotcha, hammer the votes in line, and create the point and counter-point arguments. Hours and months of honest policy debate are reduced to minutes of partisan wrangling. Is it any wonder we consistently feel dissatisfied with legislative outcomes?

In the interest of defining the best Republican or Democratic solution to a problem, we often lose sight of just doing the right thing. We're seeing the same thing occur on a national scale regarding the national economy.

This decision doesn't reflect poorly on any one person. It merely reflects my personal frustration over a seriously flawed process. My colleagues in Annapolis are all, every one of them, good and decent people. They strive to do what they truly believe to be the best. The problem is that when partisan interests enter the debate, common sense and rational thinking are forced from the room.

I really don't know how this decision will affect other people. Maybe I'll be treated like a pariah, maybe the partisan culture is so poisoned that my attempts to pass legislation will be impacted. If so, voters will know that, though. I'll call out the partisans every chance I get.

One possible consequence is that the members of the Frederick County Legislative Delegation may prefer to elect someone else as Chairman, especially since the majority are Republicans. As always, I will respect their decision.

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