RALEIGH, North Carolina — An Iraq War veteran campaigning for Congress in eastern North Carolina against U.S. Rep. Walter Jones has changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat, saying the tea party has made the GOP too extreme.
In a statement on his website Thursday, former U.S. Army Sgt. Jason R. Thigpen said the recent federal government shutdown triggered his switch.
“I simply cannot stand with a party where its most extreme element promote hate and division amongst people,” said Thigpen, 36. “Nothing about my platform has, nor will it change. The government shutdown was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. I guess being an American just isn’t good enough anymore and I refuse to be part of an extremist movement in the GOP that only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line.”
Thigpen, who was awarded a Purple Heart while serving a combat tour in Iraq, helped found a group that advocates for veterans who go back to college. He lives in Holly Ridge with his wife and four children.
Thigpen said he wouldn’t change any of his policy positions after changing his affiliation, including stanch support for gun rights. While still a Republican earlier this year, he called out the party’s leaders for a bill making sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws, saying the measure was more about partisan gain than preventing voter fraud.
On Thursday, Thigpen said the gridlock in Congress fueled by the GOP’s lockstep opposition to compromise is harming the country.
“Regardless of Party affiliation, we should be able to agree and agree to disagree on issues, and still go out for coffee or dinner afterwards,” he said. “To think anyone can despise, loath, insult, and threaten another American simply because of their Party affiliation is almost depressing.”