They say that a leopard can’t change its spots but there’s no such rule regarding county commissioners changing their party affiliations.

On Friday, Dec. 3, Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch announced that he had done just that.  He told the Rhino Times that, after serving his first year on the board, he came to a realization that his way of thinking fit better with Republican ideals than Democratic ones.

“Today, I changed my affiliation to Republican,” Upchurch stated in a Friday, Dec. 3 press release.  “This decision is a result of actions I’ve witnessed, and the conversations I’ve heard as an elected official. It is clear to me that my values do not align with the actions of the Democratic Party. Let me be clear; I am a proud American, and a Christian. I believe in free speech, fiscal responsibility, limited government, transparency, and equality. This letter cannot explain everything that has led to this decision, but I hope it provides some understanding as to why I have joined the Republican Party.”

The nine-member Guilford County Board of Commissioners will still maintain a Democratic majority, however, that majority will now be 6 to 3 rather than 7 to 2.

Since becoming a commissioner, Upchurch has shown with his votes that he would not tow the Democratic line.  For instance, he was the only no vote on a Thursday, Dec. 2 board election of a new chairman.  The motion he voted against was the one that awarded Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston another year in the chairman’s job.

Upchurch explained his decision to change parties in the press release.

“In my role as a County Commissioner,” he wrote. “I have repeatedly witnessed those in the Democratic Party vote to waste taxpayer money – sometimes on items they didn’t clearly understand. A clear example is when the board approved up to $1.8 Million Dollars for a COVID “call center” that proved ineffective and had no oversight. I have, and always will, vote against wasteful spending. The Democrats’ carefree spending goes against my promise to be honest, transparent, and responsible with my constituents’ hard-earned money.”

He added, “Regarding COVID-19, I was told to fall in line ‘for the sake of the party’ or there would be consequences. My reputation was slandered during closed-door meetings, simply for asking questions. Despite these personal attacks, I persisted – getting answers and providing the public with facts. I acknowledge that COVID-19 is a real and potentially severe virus, but the fearmongering and control tactics being used for political gain are also very real and serious.”

Upchurch went on to say he believes in free speech, and that it’s essential to democracy. He said he’d heard Democrat elected officials call parents “domestic terrorists” – just for offering their views on the materials their children are being taught in Guilford County’s schools. Unchurch added that, in some situations, those parents were kicked out of meetings.  He stated that parents should be involved in their children’s education, and added that “an attempt to undermine that is a clear case of government overreach.”

“In North Carolina, Democrats have been protesting and slandering Republicans for alleged gerrymandering during the redistricting process,” Upchurch stated in his press release announcing the change.  “ Let’s not forget, Democrats practiced the same methods when they were in the majority. Even here in Guilford County, the board recently adopted a gerrymandered map that split the minority communities in High Point and diluted their vote. I was the only board member to vote against this map. Had a Republican majority approved that map, Democrats would be calling them racists. This hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by me.”

Upchurch concluded by saying that he had always strived to be transparent, regardless of the topic, and that he’ll continue to be transparent for the rest of his term.