The last couple of weeks Republican insiders have been abuzz about a possible party switch of a state legislator from the Democratic to the Republican Party. The Arkansas News Bureau reports that the Republican Party has a news conference scheduled for Wednesday morning at the state capitol and this is likely the subject of the conference. Indeed, the Arkansas GOP put out a press release that it will hold a press conference on Wednesday at 10:45. In addition to House and party leadership, a "special guest" will be in attendance.
Speculation is that State Rep. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas will likely be announcing that she is switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. As a freshman representative, Collins-Smith distinguished herself as one of the most conservative Democrats under the capitol dome voting many times with the Republican minority. She was also a regular at the weekly conservative caucus lunch during the session.
In addition, Collins-Smith was a vocal opponent of the latest Arkansas House map approved by Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. The map puts her in the same district with Rep. Lori Benedict (R-Sturkie) in a oddly-shaped district. The new Senate map also moves Collins-Smith into the same district with Sen. Robert Thompson (D-Paragould) and only a few miles from the district with Sen. David Wyatt (D-Batesville.)
We will know for certain tomorrow, but it is a safe bet that Linda Collins-Smith will be in the capitol rotunda tomorrow at the announcement.
UPDATE – It’s official! Collins-Smith confirmed what I speculated yesterday that she is switching parties from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. She made the announcement flanked by a couple dozen Republican elected officials including Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, Congressman Tim Griffin, and another recent party switcher, Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington.
“I am here today to announce that I have joined the Republican Party of Arkansas,” began Collins-Smith to the applause of those around her. “My decision was made after much thought, prayer, and discussion with my family.”
She explained that she ran as a Democrat in 2010 and she was raised a Democrat.
“I came to Little Rock believing that it was not too late for the Arkansas Democratic Party to reject the far drift of the national Party. I truly hoped it could once again be the party of the people. I wanted to help move the Party back to the values of those everyday voters,” said Collins-Smith.
“Unfortunately, I found that the politics of Washington and the politics of the liberal left in that Democratic Party of Arkansas that there is no room for conservatives. Those who question the folly of excessive taxation are unwelcome. Those who stand for the right of babies in the womb, they are outcasts. And those who seek to create jobs by making Arkansas a business-friendly state are punished.”
“I do this because I have found it is the Republican Party that has become the party of hard-working common-sense people. It is the Republican Party that strives to live by the ideal expressed in our state motto, ‘The People Rule.’ It is the Republican party that most closely holds to the principles that I and most other Arkansans believe in: Government that manages limited finances wisely and lives within its means: government that encourages the development of business, both large and small, to create jobs for hardworking Arkansas families, government that values and protects the life of every citizen from the womb to the grave, government that doesn’t try to regulate the everyday life and personal choices of law-abiding people, and government that is better, not bigger.”
“If you remember only one thing, I hope it is this: ‘I have not changed.’ I am the same today as I was when the people of Randolph and Sharp Counties elected me. I have not left the Democratic Party, but the party left me. And I believe it has left behind the majority of the good, decent, freedom-loving people of Arkansas,” concluded Collins-Smith.