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Georgia Democrats furious at turncoat lawmaker

8:52 PM, Oct 1, 2012   |    comments
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  • Georgia State Representative Rick Crawford (D-Cedartown)
  • Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon
  • Rep. Rick Crawford's opponent, Polk County GOP Chairman Trey Kelley
    

ATLANTA -- Switching parties is nothing new in politics, especially in Georgia.

At least 7 Democratic state lawmakers have gone over to the Republican party since the last election in 2010.

But for the first time anyone can recall, an incumbent state lawmaker has announced his intention to switch parties just BEFORE an election.

State Representative Rick Crawford (D-Cedartown) let it be known last week that he will join the GOP if he's re-elected to House District 16 as a Democrat on November 6th.

And he's made the Georgia Democratic Party hopping mad.

"Man up! I mean, if you're going to do this, do it, but do it in an intellectually honest fashion," state Democratic Chairman Mike Berlon said at a Monday news conference.

Flanked by nearly two dozen other Democrats, an angry Berlon blasted Crawford for waiting until right before the election to make his true colors known.

"If you're a Democrat, you're a Democrat, but if you're not going to be one, we're coming after you," he added.

In a telephone interview, the Cedartown Representative told 11 Alive he believes it's more honest for him to announce the switch before the election than to wait until after.

The conservative Democrat, who teaches political science at Shorter College in Rome, said he could no longer remain in a party whose values now differ so much with his own.

"It's a very personal issue to me," Crawford told 11 Alive.

"It got to the point where their socialist agenda is too extreme...in opposition to my fundamental beliefs," he added.

Despite a letter from state Democrats asking him to withdraw from the race, Crawford told 11 Alive he intends to stay in and let the voters decide.

But he said he's not surprised at their anger, "because I have decided to challenge their social agenda, they've decided to make an example of me."

Democrat Chairman Berlon handed out copies of a letter they sent to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp asking that Crawford be disqualified and removed from the ballot.

A spokesman for Secretary Kemp wrote 11 Alive that the Democrats can make such a request, but that it probably won't be valid.

"I am not aware of anything else the Democratic Party could do to have Crawford removed from the ballot and the nomination substituted," wrote Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas.

Berlon said if Secretary Kemp refuses their request to name a new candidate, they will consider taking the issue to a judge.

He admits it's probably too late for Democrats to hold onto the House seat, but said the party wants to pursue such an unusual situation to keep it from happening again.

"For us to find a candidate five weeks before the election, it's gonna make it almost impossible for that candidate to win," Berlon added.

Meanwhile, the Georgia GOP is backing Crawford's opponent, Trey Kelley, Chairman of the Polk County Republican Party.

A recent poll by SandMountain Communications claims Kelley leads Crawford nearly two to one in the race.

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