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,
This column (below) written by Commissioner Woronchak was published
in the Dearborn
There's a thin line
By GARY WORONCHAK
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.