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Since the current Spencer County Fiscal Court was seated in January 2011, the makeup of the court has been predominantly Republican — until now.
Last week, both Magistrate Jerry Davis and Magistrate Woodie Cheek — unbeknownst to each other until after the fact — officially changed their party registration from Republican to Democrat.
This brings the balance on the court, as far as party lines are concerned, to an even three and three.
Now, Davis, Cheek and Magistrate David Goodlett are registered Democrats. Judge-Executive Bill Karrer and magistrates Hobert Judd and Mike Moody are Republicans.
Causing a little more intrigue, Davis confirmed his intention to seek his new party’s nomination for judge-executive next year. Cheek, however, said he has no intentions to run for judge and is happy in his role as magistrate.
This isn’t the first time Davis has switched party affiliation. About a year before he ran for magistrate, Davis said he changed his registration from Democrat to Republican.
“In Spencer County, you were just a Democrat — your dad was, your grandfather was,” he said.
But when he started paying attention to each party’s core values, he thought, “Clearly, I’m a Republican.”
Frustrated with Republicans currently in office, Davis said he’d been toying with the idea of switching again for quite some time.
“I’d been thinking about it for months and I finally made up my mind,” he said.
Davis said the current administration is not in line with his way of thinking.
“It’s not the Republican people I turn my back on, rather the administration,” he said. “They have an agenda, which does not include Republican values. A wise man once told me, ‘I didn’t leave my party, my party left me.’”
Davis pointed to what he calls “out of control spending,” a lack of transparency and a broken relationship with the Taylorsville City Commission as several things he would like to see change.
Davis claims the prior administration, made up of primarily Democrats, was more conservative than those in office now.
“I was around and worked with the previous administration,” he said. “It was 75 percent more conservative than these guys are.”
Davis said newly-elected Democrat party chair Lillian Clark accompanied him to the clerk’s office to change his registration.
“On the way in, she asked me, ‘Do you feel good about this?’ And I said I did,” Davis said.
Having made the decision, Davis said he couldn’t feel better about it.
“I feel totally rejuvenated,” he said. “It feels like the world has been lifted off my shoulders, and I can’t explain it.”
As for his intentions going forward, Davis let it be known that he fully intends to run for judge-executive in 2014.
“I am going to file a letter of intent, and I am going to run,” Davis said.
Letters of intent can be submitted any time, but candidates cannot officially file to run in the May 2014 primary until this November.
Davis said serving as a magistrate has been different than he thought and said he has found it difficult to get anything accomplished. He hopes, if elected as judge-executive, he could change that.
“I decided that what, I felt, has been broken, can be fixed,” Davis said. “And those who say it can’t be done in four years are campaigning for the next four years.”
Cheek said party lines are something he’s struggled with most of his life.
“When I turned 18 — I was born into a strong Democratic family — I was an independent thinker at the time and signed up to be an independent,” Cheek said. “My parents went nuts on me.”
But his beliefs about parties haven’t changed much since then.
“I’ve been a person who has never believed in parties,” Cheek said. “Half of my life, I’ve been a Democrat, and half of my life, I’ve been a Republican. I’m going to run for magistrate and, whether I win or lose, I’m going to be an independent the rest of my life.”
Cheek said the day after the election next year, win or lose, he’s switching his affiliation to independent and it will remain there.
Cheek said no matter his registered affiliation, he’s never been one to vote straight party lines.
“When I was a Democrat, I voted for Republicans. When I was a Republican, I voted for Democrats. I vote for who I think is going to be responsible,” Cheek said. “When it comes time to run for magistrate, I’m not sure what I’m going to be.”
Cheek said he believes in doing what is right.
“If you’re looking at party, I feel like you’re voting for who’s right, not what’s right,” he said.
Cheek said he’s been told he is the only Republican to win the race for magistrate in the Campbranch magisterial district.
“A lot of people have asked me to change, and I’m not a person of party and I appreciated their support,” he said.
Cheek said he appreciates their support so much, he views switching his party affiliation as giving support back to his district.
“It’s something I’ve struggled with forever,” he said. “A lot of it is, there are a lot of people who have supported me in this district and I really feel like it will be my support back to them to run on the Democratic ticket.”
But Cheek stressed, when he runs, it will be for magistrate.
“I am not interested in running for county judge,” he said. “I’m very happy with my role as a magistrate. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. If you like something, you continue doing that.”