The New York Times caused a bit of a stir last week when the paper rehashed Texas Republican governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry’s years, prior to 1989, before he was a Republican.
“Mr. Perry spent his first six years in politics as a Democrat, in a somewhat forgotten history that is sure to be revived and scrutinized by Republican opponents if he decides to run for president,” the Times reported.
The prediction has already proved correct, as Perry’s Republican dissenters are using the fact that the governor once had a “D” next to his name as another reason not to support his candidacy.
Yet as opponents seize on the oft-forgotten truth, the list of successful Republicans who started their political careers as Democrats is practically too long to recite. One of the Republicans’ favorite leaders, Ronald Reagan, started his career as a liberal Democrat, and Reagan and Perry are not alone.
Conservative darling and current presidential candidate Michele Bachmann first campaigned for Jimmy Carter in the 1970s as a Democrat. It was not until law school that she moved to the right.
In addition to Perry, five other Republicans currently in office used to hold office as Democrats: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, and Louisiana Rep. Rodney Alexander. (Dissatisfied Republicans develop plan for brokered convention)
Additionally, New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez never held office as a Democrat, but prior to 1995 and up until 1988, she was a registered Democrat.
Dozens more have followed the same path that have come and gone including: former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, former Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith, former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott.
While Perry is receiving criticism for his switch, Perry campaign adviser David Carney told TheDC that the goal should be to recruit more Republicans from the other side, not criticize those who have switched.
“[W]hile I was the white house political affairs office we spent countless hours working hard to recruit more Republicans,” Carney wrote in an email. “In fact, President H.W. Bush welcomed Rick Perry and dozens of other leaders to the party in a Rose Garden ceremony when I was at the White House in 1989. It’s their record, values and vision that voters care about.”