The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

When Hillary Clinton was a Republican and Rick Perry was a Democrat

Imagine an alternate universe in which Republican Hillary Clinton spent the past few weeks talking to Iowans about reforming the IRS and standing up to the Islamic State while Democrat Rick Perry called for minimum wage increases and same-sex marriage nationwide.

It could have happened -- at least in theory. But they aren't the only 2016 hopefuls with complicated party-affiliation histories. Six current and possible 2016 candidates have been -- or are even currently -- not members of their current party.

Here's what those candidates have said about their switches

Hillary Clinton

Current party: Democratic
Former party: Republican

Clinton grew up Republican. In "Living History," she wrote that her mother was a Democrat and her father was a "rock-ribbed, up-by-your-boostraps conservative Republican" and that she took after her father.

She said supported Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), who ran for president in 1964, reading his 1960 book "Conscience of a Conservative," wearing an "AuH20" Goldwater cowboy hat, and going to hear him speak at a campaign stop outside Chicago. Her beliefs first started to change when she was assigned to research President Johnson's positions for a mock 1964 presidential debate in high school, and by the 1968 election, she supported Democrat Eugene McCarthy for president.

Rick Perry

Current Party: Republican
Former Party: Democratic

Rick Perry wasn't just raised a Democrat; he was elected as one. Perry was a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 and served for three terms. He also worked as a state campaign organizer for Al Gore's presidential campaign in 1988.

But Perry said his experience with the Gore campaign was part what made him a Republican. "Going through that was part of what started me through the process of changing parties in 1989," he told the Dallas Morning News in 1998. "I came to my senses."

Another reason Perry has cited was Jimmy Carter. At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Perry said he was unsatisfied after voting for Carter in 1976 because Carter didn't help farmers like he had hoped he would.

Perry said he voted for George H.W. Bush in the 1988 election, and at a press conference in 1989, he announced he was becoming a Republican. He ran as a Republican for agriculture commissioner and won.

Bernie Sanders

Current Party: Democratic
Former Party: Independent and Socialist

Sanders is the longest-serving independent in Congress and said when he announced his presidential campaign Thursday he would remain an independent while running for the Democratic nomination. But by Friday, he said he would register as a Democrat to fulfill some state rules that require candidates to declare their party registration.

"We're going to fulfill all the rules," he told the Washington Post. "I made the decision that the best way to be effective in this campaign, the best way to win was to do it through the Democratic primary process."

He also used to be a Socialist, while serving as mayor of Burlington, Vt. -- an office he won by 10 votes over a Democratic incumbent and held following his election in 1981 to 1989.

"I am a socialist, of course I am a socialist," he said during a mayoral debate, according to an Associated Press story from 1983. "To hold a vision that society can be fundamentally different, to believe that all people can be equal, that is not a new idea." He called his change to give city employees input into policies like sick leave and grievance procedure "a socialist idea."

Ben Carson

Current party: Republican
Former party: Democrat/Independent

Carson is running as a Republican, but he's been all over the map. In a 2014 video, he said he's "actually an independent" and used to be a "pretty left-wing Democrat."

Carson grew up as a Democrat, but converted to conservatism because of President Reagan. "Like most Democrats who were black, I was told msot Republicans were evil, racist people," he told the Washington Times in 2014. "But then I started listening to Ronald Reagan and I thought, God, it just makes so much sense. Let me investigate this."

He officially changed his party registration from independent to Republican in 2014. He said he wishes there were no party designations. "I actually would favor a voting system in which there were no political designations on the ballot, where you actually had to know what the person believed," he said in the 2014 video.

Lincoln Chafee

Current party: Democratic
Former Party: Republican/Independent

Chafee was a Republican U.S. senator who served from 1999 to 2007 before becoming the independent -- and later Democratic -- governor of Rhode Island from 2011 to 2015. But it was a long road in between.

When he lost his releection in 2006, Chafee became independent, and in 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama, who he served with on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with, for president. He ran as an independent in the 2010 gubernatorial race and won.

Then, in 2011, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley suggested he become a Democrat, but he didn't. In 2012, he spoke the Democratic National Convention in support of Obama's reelection, and still didn't. But finally, in 2013, five years after endorsing a Democrat for president, Chafee switched his party affiliation to Democrat. The move appeared aimed at salvaging his hopes of reelection, but the unpopular incumbent eventually opted not to run.

Jim Webb

Current party: Democratic
Former party: Republican

Webb served one term as a Democratic senator from Virginia, but before that, he was Republican and worked for Reagan.

Webb was Secretary of the Navy under Reagan and said he "affiliated with the Republican Party based on national security issues toward the end of the Vietnam War," during a debate on "Meet the Press" in 2006. Still, he said he never felt comfortable with the party on economic issues and the Bush administration and war in Iraq convinced him to run for Senate against Republican George Allen, whom he had endorsed six years prior.

"The American people are now beginning to understand how bad that decision [the war in Iraq] was," he said. "We need to do something about it, and we're seeing the budget busted, and we're seeing the divisions in our workforce based along class lines as never before."