North Beach Mayor Mark R. Frazer has switched. So has Calvert County Commissioner John Douglas Parran. More specifically, both politicians have switched back.
The only difference is that it took Frazer 20 years to go from Democrat to Republican and back to Democrat last week. It took Parran only seven months to make his switch: from Republican to unaffiliated, then back to the GOP.
"I was just unhappy at the time," said Parran, explaining his departure from the GOP fold earlier this year, a break that ended Nov. 29.
"It was sort of a rash decision."
Frazer's decision apparently was anything but rash. A former Calvert County commissioner who helped strengthen the Republican Party there, Frazer decided that he could get more done as a Democrat in a state with a Democratic-controlled General Assembly than if he were a Republican.
"I can be more effective as the mayor of the town of North Beach as a Democrat," he said.
Frazer's move apparently didn't surprise local Democrats.
"Personally, I'm overjoyed that the black mark on my voting record is erased because he's the only Republican I've voted for," said John Toohey, the new president of the Calvert County Democratic Club, who said he voted for Frazer when he ran for county commissioner.
"I think the Republican Party went too far to the right for him. I think it's where he naturally belongs. . . . He gets along with the Democrats very well," Toohey said, "and we had hoped for years he would come back."
Roger R. Tracy, chairman of the Calvert County Republican Party, accepted the party switching, pointing out that politicians have minds of their own.
"It's like leading a herd of buffalo. . . . They don't tell you they're going to go in a different direction--they just go," Tracy said. "You just try to herd them back."
Frazer, a 59-year-old dentist, was weaned as a Democrat, growing up a member of a Democratic family and coming of political age in the '60s, inspired by JFK. What ended it all for Frazer? "Jimmy Carter," he said.
Or, rather, what started his 20-year romance with the Republicans was Ronald Reagan.
"I liked what he did for the national spirit," Frazer said. "He made Americans feel good about their country again."
Frazer campaigned for the future president in 1980, then he worked toward establishing the Republican Party in Calvert County.
"There were no elected Republicans in Calvert County in 1982," he said.
Soon Frazer was an elected Republican. He ended up serving two terms on the County Board of Commissioners, the last ending after he decided to run instead for mayor in North Beach.
The mayoral and Town Council election in North Beach is nonpartisan, but everyone in the traditionally Democratic area knew that he was a Republican. He won anyway, campaigning on a platform that promised aggressive changes in the community. He soon found, though, that it was easier to work as a Democrat in a Democratic area and a Democratic state.
"That's the nature of politics and government," Frazer said. "The party that controls the General Assembly--the party that controls the State House--makes the decision about where state resources and state support, where they go. . . . I have a vision for the town of North Beach that can't be fulfilled without state support."
Frazer officially changed parties on Monday.
"I have more opposition from within my own party than the Democrats. . . . I'm more comfortable as a Democrat and certainly plan to stay a member of the Democratic Party," he said.
Frazer's fellow party switcher also talked about the merits of permanency. Parran, 47, said that his switch back to the Republican Party, which he had belonged to since he was 18, had to do with honoring the voters who elected him as a Republican. Nonetheless, he pledged to stay away from party politics.
"I'm a Republican," Parran said, "but I'm not going to be all that partisan about it."