Several Cherokee County elected officials plan to switch political parties.
Three Democratic elected officials — County Treasurer Patsy Lassiter, County Clerk Laverne Lusk and Precinct 4 Commissioner Byron Underwood — announced their intention to join the Republican Party this week during the executive committee meeting of the Cherokee County Democratic Party, Cherokee County Democratic Party Chairman Caesar Roy announced late Thursday.
He said by phone Friday that it was not made hastily and is something he’s pondered, researched and prayed about.
“I still will be the same commissioner that I have been in the past and will continue to do the best job of my ability for the citizens of Precinct 4 and Cherokee County,” Underwood said.
Underwood also said, “People in Cherokee County and the times have changed.” He said there are more Republicans now, which is evident in election results.
When asked if he thought it would be easier to get elected as a Republican, Underwood, who described himself as conservative, said he naturally wants to get re-elected and keep his job, but he “won’t change the way I am to get my job.”
Ms. Lusk said she’s thought about switching parties for a long time and believes it is the best way she can serve constituents.
She said she too is the same person and will continue the efficient service she’s always provided.
Attempts to reach Ms. Lassiter were unsuccessful Friday.
Cherokee County Republican Party Chairman Jerry Rix said he feels great about the officials’ decision.
“We’re very glad to have them. Basically, they’ve been Republican all these years anyway. They’re just East Texas folks with East Texas values,” he said.
“It is hard to understand how these officials would choose to align themselves with the Texas Republican Party, which is intent on legislating voter suppression laws to prevent minorities from voting, that supports underfunding education, children’s health care, Medicare and Medicaid for our seniors,” he wrote in a news release. “They are now associated with the Tea Party movement and those Republicans who oppose immigration reform.”
He added, “It is understandable that in politics, ‘perpetuation often trumps principle,’ but these elected officials should consider not just what they are leaving but where they are going. Their new friends may accept them, but they will probably not trust them — and why should they?”
Still, the county’s Democratic Party knows what its objectives are and will continue to move forward “to do those things that will help out the people in the county,” Roy said Friday.