Democratic Sen. Carlyle Begay of Arizona announced on Nov. 23 that he’s switching political parties.
Begay, a Navajo Indian who represents Navajo and Hopi reservations, said the GOP's values of self-empowerment and self-determination are in line with his, The Arizona Republic reports.
He was already conservative for a Democrat and crossed partisan lines on budget issues.
"I want to help the Republican Party build a bridge with those who need and want a chance with those who can provide that chance," Begay said at a news conference, according to The Arizona Republic.
Begay is up for re-election next year and doesn’t think his new party affiliation will cause any issues with winning votes.
"They'll vote for me because they know me," he said.
However, tribal communities typically vote for Democrats.
Begay said he decided to register as a Republican when he became the tipping point in a year-long budget vote and sided with his colleagues across the aisle.
"I was being isolated because I was fighting for people to have a voice," Begay said.
Republicans welcomed him with open arms, while Democrats were dismissive of Begay’s change.
"I'm proud to welcome Senator Begay to the Republican Party," Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona said in a statement, according to The Daily Caller. "Legislative District 7 is well served by Senator Begay’s commitment to individual liberty, fiscal responsibility and personal empowerment. His service to his constituents is unwavering, and I look forward to our continued work together."
"He's been a constituent servant," GOP Chairman Robert Graham said, according to The Arizona Republic. "He's authentic. And now we're going to make sure that our guy wins."
Begay was "hand-picked by Republicans who have no problem disenfranchising an entire legislative district to serve their own agenda," Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs said.
"We never really had him as a member of our caucus," said the Democrats' assistant minority leader, Sen. Steve Farley of Arizona.