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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Congressman Switches to GOP

August 07, 2004|From Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — Rep. Rodney Alexander switched his party affiliation to Republican on Friday, making the surprise flip in the last minute of registration for the Nov. 2 ballot, virtually assuring the seat for the GOP.

Alexander, who ran as a Democrat to win his first congressional term but voted along conservative lines, had remained a Democrat on Wednesday when he registered at the start of qualifying. At the time he said, "I'm not ashamed to be a Democrat, but I vote what I think the people of the 5th District want me to represent."

Alexander said Friday he had been struggling with his conservative votes for two years -- backing the Bush tax cuts as well as the war in Iraq -- and noted they had brought him criticism from Democrats.

"I just decided it would be best for me to switch parties, that I would be more effective in the 5th District ... as a Republican," he said.

Alexander's decision leaves House Republicans with 229 seats to 205 for the Democrats with one Democratic-leaning independent. With the switch, Democrats must now gain 12 seats this fall to win the majority.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush called Alexander on Friday evening to welcome him to the party and wish him well.

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