District 117 State Representative Linda Black of Desloge dropped a bombshell at the state capitol Wednesday when she announced at a news conference that she is switching to the Republican Party after an election in which the GOP built upon its already large majorities.
Black was unopposed when she was re-elected Tuesday to a fourth and final term in the Missouri House.
Republicans won 117 House seats — the largest total number they have ever had in the state. Black's switch will make that 118.
Black said she had questioned whether to make the announcement Wednesday, but after consultation with Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and Speaker of the House Timothy Jones, agreed it was "the right time."
Black said she had contemplated switching parties for a while before announcing it.
"It's been a joke around the capitol with Republicans for quite a while that I needed to go ahead and join their party because I was already voting with them on so many issues," she said.
The main reason Black said she is switching parties is because she found it increasingly difficult to square her social and moral beliefs with those of the Democratic Party.
"I have differed with the Democrat Party on many issues and have always been supportive of traditional marriage and Second Amendment rights," she said. "I've always been able to work well with [Republicans]."
Black said she thought long and hard about the implications of switching parties at the start of her final two-year term in the House.
"I asked myself, 'do I want to work with the majority and get things accomplished or do I want to stay with the Democrat Party and disagree with 90 percent of everything they came up with?'" she said.
Even as a Democrat, Black frequently voted with the majority Republicans in support of abortion restrictions and other social issues.
When asked if her change of party affiliation will affect the way she represents her constituents in the 117th District, Black said, "Ever since I first came to Jefferson City, it has always been about people first and political party second. I have the same conservative values as my constituents. I will continue to vote for what's in their best interest."
She emphasized that she still intends to represent the interests of local labor unions in the district, as well as continue fighting for the middle class.
"My voting record will not change," Black said.
While saying the decision to switch parties had been difficult, Black said she has been welcomed warmly by her now fellow Republicans.
"I'm looking forward to working with them," she said.
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com