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POLITICS: PennAve

Nine political figures who switched parties

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Former Sen. James Jeffords rocked Washington in 2001 when he quit the Republican Party and became an independent, tipping control of the Senate to the Democrats. But the Vermont lawmaker, who died Monday, hardly was the first high-profile political figure to forsake his party. Here are eight others who left their party or switched political allegiances.

Arlen Specter


Arlen Specter (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/Washington Examiner)

The former senator from Pennsylvania originally was a Democrat but switched to the GOP during a successful bid for Philadelphia district attorney in 1965. He later served in the Senate as a Republican but changed back to the Democrats a year before a failed re-election attempt in 2010.


Charlie Crist


Charlie Crist in 2010 (Examiner file)

Another double-switcher, Crist was a longtime Republican Florida state lawmaker and cabinet member before voters sent him to the governor's mansion in 2006. But after trailing Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio for the Republican Senate nomination in 2010, Crist became an independent, allowing him to bypass the primaries and land on the general election ballot. The move didn't work, as Rubio easily won. Crist then joined the Democratic Party late in 2012 and now is running again for governor.

Ronald Reagan


The Gipper (AP file)

The two-term president was a registered Democrat during his heyday as a Hollywood actor. But his sympathies changed after meeting and eventually marrying Republican actress Nancy Davis in 1952. He was a full-fledged Republican by the time he successfully ran for governor of California in 1966.


Condoleezza Rice


Condoleezza Rice (AP file)

The former secretary of state under President George W. Bush was as a Democrat as a young adult, casting her first presidential ballot for Jimmy Carter in 1976. But by 1982 she switched to the GOP and helped elect Reagan to the White House. She said she left the Democrats partly because she became disillusioned with Carter and because her father had switched to the GOP.

Jesse Helms


Helms in 1997 (AP file)

The late North Carolina conservative was elected to the Senate five times as a Republican. But he began his political career in the 1950s as a Democrat on the Raleigh City Council. He switched to the GOP prior to his initial Senate run in 1972 because he said the Democratic Party had become too liberal.


Elizabeth Dole


Elizabeth and Bob Dole in 2009 (AP photo)

The former Republican North Carolina senator and wife of 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole was an enthusiastic Democrat while campaigning for John Kennedy during the 1960 presidential election. She served in the administration of Democratic President Johnson, but stayed in the White House after the election of Republican President Nixon before becoming a Republican herself in 1975.


Michael Bloomberg


Bloomberg (Examiner file)

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician switched to the Republican Party from the Democrats just prior to being elected New York City's 108th mayor in 2001. He won a second term as a Republican in 2005 but left the party two years later, winning a third term as an independent.


Parker Griffith


Griffith in June (AP photo)
Griffith was elected to the House in 2008 as a Democrat. But at the urging of Republicans — who controlled the chamber and who promised him a plumb committee assignment — he switched to the GOP while in office, then lost his re-election bid to party rival and Tea Party candidate Mo Brooks. Griffith later rejoined the Democrats and now is running for Alabama governor.
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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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