Back to HOME PAGE

About Gary Woronchak

E-mail Gary at the office

E-mail Gary at home

The official announcements: How Gary let the public know
he was changing parties and would run as a Democrat in 2006

Dear Friends,
After long thought and much deliberation, I decided in the fall of 2005 to seek re-election to the Wayne County Commission in 2006 as a Democrat. Certainly, after serving in public office the previous seven years as a Republican, this was a move that generated some conversation and controversy. It wasn't meant to do so.

Perhaps what has been the most historically inaccurate in the years since then is the assertion by some that I made this change to run for the Wayne County Commission -- the false notion that I changed parties for the simple, political expediency of winning a traditionally Democratic seat on the commission. What is blurred in this false perception is the fact that I won the county commission seat in 2004 running as a Republican, and did not make the decision to change parties until after I was already on the commission. So, I did not change parties in order to run for Wayne County office, I had no intentions of changing parties at the time I ran for the commission, and it was only after I had been elected to the Wayne County Commission that I considered this change.

I made this change meaning no disrespect to the Republicans with whom I served or to the hard-working Republican activists of this area. They are all great people, worthy of respect, and for whom I have much affection. I am deeply sorry to any who feel disappointed, angry, let down, etc., by this announcement. I wish them all the best, and sincerely hope that, after any negative reactions they have subside, we will remain friends.

But I believe this change was best for me and for the people I represent.

It's also important that people know that this doesn't reflect any significant change in my positions on important issues. I'm the same person I've always been. I'm just taking those positions to another party label. Below you will find a series of statements and comments on the party change. I hope I have explained myself clearly.

With best wishes,
Gary Woronchak


COMMENTARY: This column (below) written by Commissioner Woronchak was published in the Dearborn
Press & Guide, Dearborn Times-Herald, and the News Herald Newspapers on Nov. 30, 2005


There's a thin line
between moderate Democrats, Republicans

By GARY WORONCHAK
Wayne County Commissioner

  The Great Divide between the two major political parties seems wide as ever, polarizing our nation over issues and personalities. Radio and TV talk show hosts fan the flames of disagreement and explain without room for differing opinions not only that their side is always right, but the other side is always, often stupidly wrong.

  Our states no longer have diversity of opinion, they're just red or blue with no shades or purple. Recent debates and actions in Congress have been decidedly uncivil, creating "highlights" that are shown repeatedly on newscasts and cable networks.

  Anger, even disdain, seems genuine between the parties, which are defined by their extremes. The Far Right and Far Left are, in the grand scheme of things, not where most people reside, yet they set the tone for the debate between the sides.

  But so many are not part of the extreme. Most, I believe, float toward the center, drifting closer to or further from the other side depending on the issue. Part Democrat, part Republican, part Libertarian. You've heard of the Moral Majority? Perhaps there's a Moderate Majority.

  On the issues, I'm where I believe most Americans are. Closer to the middle than the edges. I guess over 20 years as a journalist before entering government service conditioned me to look at both sides of an issue. So I seldom take a position based solely on party politics.

  As a Republican state legislator for six years I worked with Democrats and Republicans from all over the state. Some leaned toward their party's extreme, but many also were open to the other side's point of view. Sometimes you couldn't tell the difference between them at all. From them, I learned something very important:

  The line between a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat is a thin one.

  So it wasn't a huge leap for me to change parties. I was able to do so without changing my beliefs on any issues and without compromising any principles. I am, in fact, the same person I've always been, more concerned about delivering good service, communicating with the people I serve and representing my district well than arguing party platforms.

  As has been reported over the past couple weeks, I will seek re-election to the Wayne County Commission next year as a Democrat after serving six years in the state House and the last year on the commission as a Republican.

  My reasons are multi-layered: I believe the Democratic Party is better positioned to address issues that are important to the people I represent; I have some disagreements with Republican policies, particularly on the federal level; and I can be a more effective commissioner in Wayne County as a Democrat. (A longer-winded explanation can be found in a formal statement on my website, commissionergary.com, and if you don't have internet access I'll send you a copy.)

  I make this change with no ill feelings toward Republicans. On the contrary, I have great respect for the Republicans with whom I served in the Legislature, and friendship and gratitude to the local Republican activists who have helped me along the way. The most difficult thing about changing party labels is knowing that some of them will be disappointed.

  The reaction to my change has been pretty much as I had expected. Some favorable, some unfavorable. Some thrilled, some angry, some not caring much. Some surprised, some not.

  This sort of thing doesn't happen very often. Maybe never before in Dearborn. Sure, some candidates have run under alternating party labels for different offices (one longtime Republican recently switched to run as a Democrat in one race, and switched back to run as a Republican two years later), but for someone actually holding office to do it is pretty rare. I understand that. So a little controversy is expected. And politically, there's probably some risk.

  But for me, and the people I work for, I believe it's the right thing to do. It won't change a thing about how I represent my district or the service my office provides.

  As for the politics of it, I'll put my faith, as always, in the voters. Democrats. Republicans. Libertarians. And all who are a little bit of each, the Moderate Majority.

 

STATEMENT FROM
WAYNE COUNTY COMMISSIONER GARY WORONCHAK
NOV. 15, 2005


After serving the last seven years as a Republican elected official, I am changing parties and will seek re-election to the Wayne County Commission next year as a Democrat.

People will ask me why I made this change, and they might expect a concise answer, summed up in a sentence or two. It's absolutely not that simple.

First, let me say that this does not reflect a drastic change in attitude. I haven't changed my position on one single issue. I'm the same person I've always been. As a public official, I've been less concerned with politics and more focused on providing good service and representing well the people in my district.

In fact, it's my loyalty to the people I represent that helped lead me to this decision. I think I can be a more effective public servant for them as a Democrat. And I think the Democratic Party better represents their interests.

On the issues, I'm where I believe most Americans are. Closer to the middle than the edges. I guess over 20 years as a journalist conditioned me to look at both sides of an issue. I seldom take a position based solely on party politics. Those who served with me in the Legislature know that I've usually been more in the middle, between the parties.

In practical application, as a public official, what's best for my constituents has always come first. I defy party positions and party leaders without hesitation in favor of the best interests of my district. I never was John Engler's favorite Republican. And I never wanted to be.

God bless the Republicans

Let me pause for a moment and say, God bless the Republicans. Our country needs both ends of the spectrum to be represented, and all points along the spectrum. When all different views are heard, in a reasonable manner and in the spirit of compromising for the best interests of our people, then our government is working like it was intended.

But there are some sharp differences between the parties, and as they've perhaps grown sharper in recent years, I've found myself leaning more toward the Democratic side.

We're at a time in our history when people are hurting and they need a government that cares about what they're going through in their everyday lives -- their ability to afford the basic necessities and maybe even raise their standard of living a little to enjoy some of the benefits of living in a free society.

They need a government that cares more about individuals than institutions. Tax cuts for businesses, while important to keeping jobs in our state, can't be the primary focus of government. Not when so many people are unemployed. Or when so many people are displaced from careers and have to get by with less income from whatever lower-paying jobs they can find. Or when so many people are without health care coverage, or in danger of losing their health benefits. Or when people nearing the end of their working years have to wonder whether they'll be able to enjoy the retirement they've expected, or been promised.

I think the Democratic Party is best positioned to address the needs of these people. And I want to be a part of that.

Differences with Republican policies

Now, can I, as an individual public official, address these needs as a Republican? Yes. The issues I've been involved with demonstrates that. But there are other reasons behind my decision to become a Democrat.

While my primary motivation for this change is what's best for residents in my own back yard, I also have some serious concerns with the current administration in Washington.

– The war in Iraq had questionable beginnings and has no end in sight.

– The administration's plans for Social Security are frightening.

– Federal spending is at levels that should concern all Americans, including fiscal conservatives, which I consider myself to be.

– When Americans in areas struck by natural disasters looked to the federal government for help, the response was sadly lacking.

– Our foreign policy has alienated much of the rest of the world.

This administration has seemed to polarize our great nation, dividing us between red and blue, and what should be an honest debate over ideas has become less civil, less tolerant and, worst, less productive.

A more effective public servant

But then, aside from me believing Democrats are better positioned to help people, and my disappointment with the Republican administration in Washington, there is another, very practical reason for this change.

I'll be a more effective Wayne County Commissioner.

Before I changed parties, thirteen of the 15 commissioners were Democrats, and that balance of power will never change. Now, as a Republican, I have had no trouble getting along on the commission, I have good relationships, and I can get things done for my district. I won my seat as a Republican and expect I would hold my seat as a Republican. And frankly, continuing to be a Republican would be easier overall, because changing parties doesn't come without some stress and difficulties.

But, all that considered, it makes little sense to continue running as a Republican and swimming against the current in Wayne County. Especially with my views on the parties that I just explained.

Serving as a Democrat, I will have more of an opportunity to take a leadership role on the Wayne County Commission. I will be more likely to chair a committee and perhaps have more influence over the direction of the county government. My ability to get things done will be enhanced. I can do an even better job for the people and the communities I represent.

On so many levels, it just makes sense.

The hardest thing about making this change is knowing how it may be received by those I served with in the Republican caucus of the state House. I am proud to have served with them and have great respect and affection for each of my former House colleagues.

It's difficult, too, to disappoint the active Republicans in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Downriver, the ones who have knocked on doors for me, worked at polls for me, and helped me win elections. I deeply appreciate the assistance and friendship they have given me over the years, and I sincerely hope the friendship will continue even if the assistance does not.

I have a great many friends who are Republicans. And I will look forward to working with Republicans. I may be on the other side of the aisle. But they can be sure they'll find me near the center.

 

Here's the news release that went to the media in November 2005

Woronchak changes parties, will run as Democrat in 2006

Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak is changing parties and will seek re-election to the commission next year as a Democrat.

Woronchak, whose district includes Allen Park, Dearborn and Melvindale, has held office as a Republican for seven years, including six years in the state House of Representatives before leaving that office last year due to term limits.

"This does not reflect a drastic change in attitude," he said. "I haven't changed my position on one single issue. I'm the same person I've always been. As a public official, I've been less concerned with politics and more focused on providing good service and representing well the people in my district.

"In fact, it's my loyalty to the people I represent that helped lead me to this decision," Woronchak added. "I think I can be a more effective public servant for them as a Democrat. And I think the Democratic Party better represents their interests."

The 15-member Wayne County Commission included 13 Democrats prior to Woronchak's change, reflecting the majority Democratic voters in the county. Given his moderate voting record, and combined with some concerns he has had with Republican policies, Woronchak said, "It makes little sense to continue running as a Republican and swimming against the current in Wayne County."

His decision was welcomed by prominent local Democrats.

"I have worked well with Gary Woronchak when he was a Republican, and I will work well with him as a Democrat," said Congressman John Dingell, D-15th District. "He is a true public servant, not a politician, and he always works hard for the people he serves. He is decent, good and well-respected in the community.

 

 

"I welcome Gary to the Democratic Party," Dingell said. "He will find himself among like-minded people that put the concerns of working families first, and I know that he will feel at home in our Party."

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said, "I look foward to supporting Gary's re-election to the Commission next year as he joins us on the Democratic ticket."

"Gary has been a great addition to the Wayne County Commission," Ficano added, "and although he is changing parties, Commissioner Woronchak is not changing his values, priorities and work ethic. Regardless of party affiliation, we can always count on him to put his constituents first."

While appreciative of the support of key Democrats, Woronchak said the most difficult thing about changing parties is knowing that it will disappoint some people who are important to him.

"The hardest thing about making this change is knowing how it may be received by those I served with in the Republican caucus of the state House," Woronchak said. "I am proud to have served with them and have great respect and affection for each of my former House colleagues.

"It's difficult, too, to disappoint the active Republicans in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Downriver, the ones who have knocked on doors for me, worked at polls for me, and helped me win elections. I deeply appreciate the assistance and friendship they have given me over the years, and I sincerely hope the friendship will continue even if the assistance does not."

Woronchak was regarded as a moderate in the House, where he helped enact a cut in the state income tax to its lowest rate in 30 years and was instrumental in raising the maximum unemployment benefit in 2002 for the first time in seven years.

 

 

He had 22 bills signed into law during his time in the Legislature, including consumer protection measures for nursing homes and HMOs, campaign finance reform, homeland security enhancements and an increase in the special income tax deduction for senior citizens.

He also amended the School Aid Act to bring $2.5 million more each year to Dearborn schools for at-risk programs, helped create the Michigan Education Savings Program to help parents save for college, and co-sponsored the legislation that established the state's Amber Alert program to find missing children.

As a Republican in a state House district that leans Democratic, Woronchak enjoyed the support of Republican and Democratic voters alike. He ran unopposed for his final term in 2002, the only state representative in Michigan to be unchallenged that year.

At no point was his bipartisan support more evident than when he won his county commission seat as a Republican in 2004, a year that local voters went strongly Democratic at the top of the ticket. In Dearborn, Woronchak won over his Democratic opponent by 3,000 votes, even as Democratic challenger John Kerry beat President George W. Bush by nearly 8,000 votes.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm also added her support for Woronchak's party change.

"On behalf of myself and the Democratic Party, we applaud Gary Woronchak's decision," the Governor said. "Gary has shown true leadership in taking this step. Welcome aboard."

 

Back to HOME PAGE

About Gary Woronchak

E-mail Gary at the office

E-mail Gary at home