Williams jumps to GOP

Published 12:54 am Friday, October 14, 2011

Arthur Williams is no longer a Democrat.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, the former state representative walked into the Beaufort County Board of Elections’ offices to sign paperwork officially shifting his allegiance to the Republican Party.

Williams, who lost his re-election try on Nov. 2, 2010, first registered to vote as a Democrat on May 14, 1966, according to public records.

He remained a Democrat until Thursday morning.

The rumor mill continues to indicate Williams plans to run next year as a Republican candidate, but the four-term lawmaker isn’t publicly saying which office he might seek.

Political observers, most of whom don’t want to speak on the record, say Williams is eyeing the state Senate District 1 spot currently occupied by Sen. Stan White, D-Dare.

Williams wasn’t confirming that Thursday.

“This morning I officially changed my voting registration from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party,” he conveyed in a written statement. “In short, the Democratic Party left me. I did not leave the party. As a citizen and elected leader, I have always fought for the ideals that have made our state and country great: a strong economy, rewarding hard work, and creating a future where all individuals have an opportunity to excel and grow.”

Williams had been scheduled to make a political announcement on Oct. 18 at the N.C. Estuarium. That announcement was canceled because of a serious illness in his family, the statement shows.

Williams couldn’t be reached for additional comment.

A former member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Williams was first elected to the state House in 2002. During his tenure in Raleigh, Williams served on committees representing agricultural and transportation interests.

For eight years he consistently praised Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, then the powerful Senate president pro tempore, for his efforts on behalf of eastern North Carolina, and forged friendships at the highest levels of Democratic leadership on the state capital’s Jones Street.

Last year, he was defeated by first-time candidate Bill Cook, who now serves House District 6.

District 6 encompasses Beaufort County and eight precincts in northeast Pitt County, and Cook is already running for re-election.

In January, Williams offered himself as a possible replacement for the retiring Basnight. A Democratic Party committee selected White, once a Dare County commissioner, to serve out the remainder of Basnight’s unexpired term.

Asked to comment on Williams’ switch, Cook said, “Yay! He saw the light.”

Cook added, “I think it’s great that he’s decided to come over to the right side. He has for years professed to be a conservative, now’s his chance to prove it.”

The Rev. David Moore is a friend and supporter of Williams and one of two Beaufort County delegates who tried unsuccessfully to make the long-term representative Basnight’s successor at the Democratic committee meeting in January.

“He’s always been a good Democrat,” said Moore, a former Beaufort County commissioner. “Unfortunately, the Democratic Party didn’t support him this last time. I guess he did what he felt like he had to do. That doesn’t stop me from being his friend.”

Asked whether he could support Williams if he sought office again, Moore said it would depend on the race and who’s in it.

“That I’d take seriously,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to say that I’d just vote Democrat or I’d just vote Republican. I’d want to know who’s running and what are they going to do for us.”

White, the senator who succeeded Basnight, had heard and read Williams was thinking about a party switch.

“I think his values are in line with the Democratic Party, and I think the strong issues that the Democrats have always fought for — education, jobs and everything — that Arthur was a strong proponent,” White said. “I was hoping that he would stay in the Democratic Party because I thought that he was a good Democrat and thought he was respected by the party.”

White said he’d seen Williams in Raleigh a number of times this year.

“It didn’t even dawn on me that anything was going on,” he said. “We always spoke.”

As for Williams being left by the party, White said, “I’d be curious (to know) when the party left him.”