Late last year, Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch did something that no other Guilford County commissioner has done in this century.
He changed political parties after being elected to a seat on the board.
In the case of Upchurch, after running and being elected as a Democrat, he announced – after exactly one year in office – that he was changing his registration to Republican.
Some conservatives in the county were delighted by Upchurch’s change of heart. However, at the Board of Commissioners Thursday, Jan. 20 virtual meeting, one Democratic speaker from the floor, James Adams, gave Upchurch a piece of his mind.
Adams couldn’t speak at the beginning of the meeting with other speakers from the floor because of technical issues with his internet connection – however, halfway through the meeting, the board gave Adams his allotted three minutes of time.
Adams noted Upchurch’s radical transformation and added, “I feel he used us and our community to move to the board. I think it’s a disservice to us as Democrats.”
As is common during speakers from the floor – a time when people can talk about anything they choose – the commissioners, including Upchurch, sat quietly and did not respond.
Adams accused Upchurch of a bait and switch political move and said that those who wanted to advance Democratic initiatives in the county were unjustly deprived after they cast their vote for a Democrat and got a Republican instead with a completely different set of values.
“When you present something different after you get there, it’s a problem,” Adams said.
In December when Upchurch made the move, he released a public statement regarding his decision. It read, in part: “In my role as a County Commissioner. 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 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.”
While many Republicans viewed that as a young man getting wiser, liberal critics, including many on social media who commented, certainly saw things differently.
As it pertains to Board of Commissioners decisions, the move hasn’t brought about a different set of outcomes since the Democrats still hold a 6-to-3 majority on the board, and also because, even when Upchurch was a registered Democrat, he often voted with the Republicans.