UPDATED: Arapahoe Lawmaker Gives Up on GOP

Sources close to the state representative say Debbie Stafford (R-40, Arapahoe, Elbert) will announce that she is changing her party affiliation to the Democratic Party this afternoon. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketStafford is an ordained minister who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee in Colorado’s state house of representatives.

The switch, scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. this afternoon, will bring the number of Democrats in the state house in Colorado from 39 to 40, out of 65.

UPDATE: Newly minted Democrat Rep. Stafford’s made the following statement this afternoon:

I am happy to be here at this meeting of the House Democratic Caucus.  I am here to announce that I will be joining the Democratic Party.

My decision to cross the aisle was not made lightly or quickly.  This was a decision that was the product of a great deal of soul searching and contemplation.  My decision comes from my gut sense of right and wrong, and my heart’s deepest values. 

When I decided to run for the legislature in 1999, I ran because of my love for people and the issues that impacted the lives of our citizens such as affordable housing, health care, education, juvenile justice reform, protecting small businesses, and the economy.  It was and is my desire to continue to make Colorado the finest place to raise a family, to work, and to preserve the beauty of this great state. 

As I enter my last year in the House, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about my reasons for running, my accomplishments and what I want get done in my time left. 

In my time in the legislature, I have championed issues such as health care, mental health care access, supporting children through the foster care and adoption process, and animal rights laws.  I have helped with the clean up of asbestos in Deer Trail.  I have worked with the city of Aurora, Arapahoe, and Elbert Counties to improve a dangerous stretch of road. 

But I know that I have a lot of goals yet to achieve.  I want to provide access to mental health care for all Coloradans.  Reforming our health care system is a major undertaking that must continue to move forward.  I want to make Colorado’s schools the best in the nation. I am passionate about juvenile justice reform and protecting our children. I am concerned about the protection of private property rights. I want to help build a strong economy. 

So I asked myself a simple question: How can I best do that? I considered my options.  Ideally, I find myself a moderate and would be best suited for a third party.  However, the reality that our political system is not designed for a third party voice to be strong, my answer was to join a party that better reflects my values and respects my contribution.

Like many others in Colorado who want to balance the role of government, who want to protect business yet show compassion for those less fortunate, who want to stand up for citizens who have been lost in bureaucracy, I find that I am in the middle of the political spectrum. 

I will spend my last year as an elected official serving the constituents that elected me to public office.  My ability to affect change for my constituents and the state of Colorado has been impacted by the fact that I am a moderate. 

Like many others in Colorado, I feel this way:

I am not leaving the Republican Party as much as the Republican Party left me. 

No one pushed me or pulled me:  I decided it was time to place myself, and my self-respect, with the Democratic Party.

Finally, let me be clear:  I am still Representative Debbie Stafford.  I still represent House District 40.  I will not be changing my votes or my values:  I am changing my party.

After Mr. Speaker says a few words, I’d be glad to take your questions.  Thank you.

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