It may have happened before in Guilford County, but, if so, no one can remember when.
A recently elected Guilford County commissioner jumps ship – in a highly public and confrontational way – from one party to another. This week, former Democratic District 6 Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch abruptly left the Democratic party and became Republican District 6 Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch.
Without naming Democratic Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, Upchurch’s parting statement took some swipes at Alston – as well as some of the other Democrats on the board.
The nine-member board now has three Republicans and six Democrats.
When the county commissioners elected Alston to a new year as chairman on Thursday, Dec. 2, Upchurch was the only no vote from either party.
Upchurch in his press release announcing the party change, complained of being told to “fall in line” and made allegations of wasteful spending that clearly pointed in the direction of the county’s longtime Democratic leader.
All of this compelled Alston to respond and Friday, Dec. 3, the chairman did just that.
“I have been requested by many of the media outlets to respond to the accusations listed in a recent statement released by a fellow commissioner,” Alston said in the prepared statement.
“While I would never presume to know another’s personal political ideology, nor would I wish someone to be asked to support something they do not believe in, I am not surprised at Commissioner Upchurch’s recent announcement. I am, however, deeply disappointed in the manner to which Commissioner Upchurch has chosen to make his announcement. His statements regarding his ‘reasons’ for the change are blatant mis-truths and, plainly stated, not representative of the true facts to which he himself has been a part of. Rather, his statement is reflective of a young first term commissioner who over the past year has chosen to not engage in local government, to understand the financial workings and responsibilities of a county and the mandated role and responsibilities a member of a Board of Commissioners carries.”
Alston added that Upchurch “speaks in support of a false narrative vilifying the democratic party for advocating for equity and inclusion.”
“His statements are reflective of one who is ignorant of state law,” Alston continued, “blind to medical science and flippant to the weight of the responsibility one assumes as an elected official charged with protecting our communities.”
Upchurch also called a recent county redistricting effort led by Alston as “racist” and “gerrymandered.”
Alston responded to those allegations as well.
“Regarding his remarks on our local redistricting efforts, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners led by the democratic majority worked closely with the republican party,” Alston stated. He added that it “received unanimous votes from republican board members and included the republican Majority WHIP, Jon Hardister, in the drafting of the final approved map to the consensus of both political parties for the County Board of Commissioners and the County Board of Education.”
Alston concluded, “Simply said, Mr. Upchurch’s political philosophy and party association are for him to decide; however, the manner which he has chosen to do so is not reflective of an elected official charged with the public’s trust.”