Va. Lawmaker Makes Party Switch Official

Independent Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia has finally completed the transformation from his Democratic roots: On Thursday he formally informed the Clerk of the House of Representatives that he is now a Republican.

According to Goode’s office, the congressman, who has been an independent since 2000, was just making official a declaration he made in early spring that he would be switching parties. He has already filed for his 2002 candidacy as a Republican and has the GOP nomination to run for re-election to the 5th District.

"I request that my party designation be changed to Republican on all official publications and databases of the House of Representatives, effective August 1, 2002," he wrote the clerk in a brief letter Thursday.

Goode’s switch neatly reflects the changes in the district, located west of the Richmond capital, which is very much rural and conservative, home of the first tobacco auction, 19th century plantations, moonshine dealers and the site of massive resistance to federal desegregation in 1957. But back then, the resisters were Democrats and this was a predominantly Democratic enclave.

Today, those conservative Democrats are virtually no more. In 1996, Goode ran and won as a Democrat, but has since cast some of the most important votes of his career with the GOP, including voting for the impeachment of President Clinton. In 2000, he announced that he was becoming an independent, citing his differences with the Democrats on tobacco and federal spending.

Republicans reacted by giving him a plum assignment on the Appropriations Committee, and he endorsed George W. Bush for president. Bush beat Vice President Al Gore in this district, 56 percent to 40 percent.

Goode faces Charlottesville City Councilwoman, Meredith Richards, a Democrat, in the fall election. As a result of his switch, the House's balance of power will shift to 223 Republicans to 210 Democrats, with one independent and one vacancy.