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The Daily Tar Heel

Paul Tine, member of NC House, leaves Democrats

Rep. Paul Tine has joined the General Assembly’s Republican House Caucus.

Tine, who represents District 6 in eastern North Carolina, is now officially listed as unaffiliated.

Along with Tine’s history of fiscal conservatism, his decision to caucus with the Republican Party was spurred by the transportation, education and insurance problems facing the state, which he believes can be better solved if legislators look past their party affiliations.

“These (fiscally conservative) ideas have become increasingly less welcome in the Democratic Party over the past several years,” Tine said in a statement. “The majority party in Raleigh has said they will make room for a more moderate approach.”

Speaker of the House-designee Tim Moore and other House Republicans say they are happy to welcome Tine to the caucus.

“The House Republican Caucus welcomes Rep. Tine and looks forward to adding his voice as we address the important issues facing North Carolinians,” Moore said in a statement.

While current Republican members of the House have accepted Tine into their ranks, history shows that defectors, or politicians who switch parties, have to prove themselves to their new party before they are entirely trusted.

“The party that the defector enters sees him as a latecomer because he hasn’t campaigned for or built alliances within that party previously,” said Ferrel Guillory, a UNC journalism professor and director of the Program on Public Life. “There’s a transition period where defectors from one party to another have to prove over time that their switch was genuine.”

During the 1980s, after former president Ronald Reagan was elected, the transition period for lawmakers who switched affiliations was not as pronounced as it is now.

“In the 1980s, when the Republicans were winning a lot of converts, they were happy to welcome defectors because it signified the growing strength of the Republican Party in the wake of Reagan’s election,” said Guillory.

Party switching became common in the wake of Reagan’s election, but has since died down, Guillory said.

“There’s been a lot less party switching in the last twenty years because most of the conservative white Democrats who wanted to become Republican had already done so, and the sons and daughters of these party switchers grew up as Republicans,” said Guillory.

Paul Tine’s party switch gives the Republicans a 75-45 supermajority in the House, reinforcing the power they’ve held in state government since the 2010 election.

“The inclusion of Rep. Tine reflects the continuing positive momentum of our caucus as we head into the upcoming legislative season,” Moore said.

Analyst John Wynne wrote in a Friday post on the Politics North Carolina blog that Tine’s departure is a blow to an already struggling state Democratic Party.

“The legislative session hasn’t even started yet and already N.C. House Democrats have won the first ‘worst week in Raleigh’ award,” he wrote.

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