LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) - Rep. Roy Schmidt, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican on Tuesday, talked exclusively with 24 Hour News 8 about his reasons.
Schmidt, who described himself as someone who had always been a "moderate Democrat" now says he's "a moderate Republican."
In his first interview since the announcement, Schmidt told 24 Hour News 8 he switched parties because "I felt more and more frustrated that the people I represented for 20 years weren't being heard.
"I knew it was going to be tough to make this decision," he said, and added he's been hurt by some of the comments people have made. However, he said, he's also heard many positive remarks.
In his announcement, the two-term state representative in Michigan's 76th District said, "I believe I was sent to Lansing to serve the people of Grand Rapids, not political bosses. The simple truth is, extreme Democrat party bosses like Mark Brewer are unwilling to listen to ideas or accept my positions on issues that matter to me and Grand Rapids."
In a scathing response, Brewer said , "It saddens me that in a desperate, cowardly, opportunistic move at the 11th hour, Roy Schmidt abandoned his constituents and the values by which he was elected for the sole purpose of clinging to office and the perks of the job. Rather than face a tougher district, Schmidt cut a deal with the Republicans so that no one would run against him in an attempt to ensure his reelection."
Schmidt denied there was any bad blood with Brewer. "But I work for the people of Grand Rapids" and not the party boss, he said.
"Never burn bridges and work hard" is the motto he's always followed. If people who contributed to his campaign thought they were giving to the Democratic Party, he'll be happy to talk with them about their money.
"I love to work with people on both sides (of the aisle)," he said. "You don't get anything done for the people of Grand Rapids unless you work across the aisle.
Schmidt said he is ready to go door-to-door in this campaign, and the fact he switched parties and almost immediately had a Democratic opponent was not orchestrated in any way.
"Not at all," he said.
"I know in my heart I did the right thing and I did the right thing for Grand Rapids," he told 24 Hour News 8. "I feel excited and emboldened."
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