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Vet candidate switches parties, cites shutdown

Nov. 4, 2013 - 03:32PM   |  
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An Iraq war veteran running for Congress has abruptly switched political parties, saying the Republican role in forcing a 17-day government shutdown has made him decide to run as a Democrat.

Jason R. Thigpen, a six-year Army veteran and former staff sergeant who was a gun truck commander on convoy security in Iraq from December 2008 to January 2010, is running for the North Carolina congressional seat held by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Thigpen had been running as a Republican but on Thursday announced on his blog he had changed his mind after talking with his wife, Tiffany, an active-duty Marine stationed at Camp Lejuene, N.C.

That installation is part of the congressional district that also includes the New River and Cherry Point Marine Corps air stations.

North Carolina’s party primaries to determine who will be on the ballot for the November 2014 general elections will not be held until May.

“I’ve decided to run as a Democrat rather than a Republican,” Thigpen said. “I simply cannot stand with a party [whose] most extreme element promotes hate and division amongst people. Nothing about my platform has, nor will it change. The government shutdown was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I refuse to be part of an extremist movement in the GOP that only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line,” he said.

There is some irony in Thigpen’s switch because Jones, in his 10th term, is a former Democrat who became a Republican. Jones was a Democrat when he served in the North Carolina legislature and first ran for the House seat held by his father, also a Democrat. Jones lost the Democratic primary but was elected to the seat two years later after he switched parties.

Thigpen said he had “wonderful support” from many people within the North Carolina Republican Party but there also are some “radical nut jobs.”

“Unfortunately, the extremists in the party, with their burn-it-all-down philosophy, appear to be the ones turning out the majority of voters in the primaries and mid-term elections,” Thigpen said.

Jones isn’t in great favor with the more conservative wing of the Republican Party mostly because of his opposition to the Iraq war, which led to his departure from the conservative Republican Study Committee and being denied any subcommittee chairmanships on the armed services committee, despite his position as the third-ranking Republican in seniority.

Another Republican is also in the race for the seat held by Jones. Taylor Griffin, a former Treasury Department aide who worked on the reelection campaign of President George W. Bush, announced in early October that he’ll be returning to North Carolina to run against Jones. His announcement made no mention of Thigpen, a political novice.

In his blog, Thigpen said he didn’t fight in Iraq “to defend the liberties and freedoms of one party, race, sex, or one income class of Americans. Whether white, black, Hispanic, Asian, man, woman, gay, lesbian, straight, rich, or poor, we fought together as equals, side-by-side for the benefit of every American.”

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