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Sen. Hyde-Smith joins Republicans

Brookhaven’s state senator is switching sides.

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is joining the Republican Partyafter an 11-year political career as a Democrat, signing upalongside more than a dozen elected officials statewide who havebailed on the Democrats in the past two years. Hyde-Smith wasexpected to make the move official Tuesday at a ceremony at theMississippi Republican Party headquarters in Jackson.

“I am extremely concerned about our state, extremely concernedabout our country and I just feel at this point in the politicallandscape this is what I need to do,” Hyde-Smith said.

Hyde-Smith has served Senate District 39 as a Democrat since takingoffice in 2000. She chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee andserves on several other important committees, like the joint budgetcommittee and the redistricting committee.

Hyde-Smith said she was non-partisan before running for office in1999 and joining the Democratic Party.

“At that point, it just really wasn’t a huge issue,” she said.”After serving in office as long as I have, I just live under thebelief of conservative policies. I think it’s time to woman up andtake control, get us in the direction we need to be going.”

Of course, Hyde-Smith’s GOP switch will not have a great impact onher own beliefs or voting habits. Even as a Democrat her votingrecord in the Senate is conservative.

“We’re not going to have to bring out any smelling salts foranyone,” she said.

But the switch does bring parity to the Senate, where Republicansand Democrats now divide that chamber with 26 seats each – amilestone in the state’s political history, said MississippiRepublican Party Chairman Brad White.

“There’s only been one other time in the state’s history that’sever happened,” he said.

White said Hyde-Smith’s switch to the GOP is proof moreconservatives are “coming home” as the Democratic Party leans left,creating a crisis of belief for conservatives who’ve long served asDemocrats.

“They were kind of homeless in their own party. The conservativeswho have, in the past, found a home in the Democratic Party can nolonger do so,” he said. “They’re making a change that willreconcile them and their beliefs with the party they’re in.”

Hyde-Smith and two other unnamed Democratic officials werescheduled to switch to the GOP at 1 p.m. Tuesday, becoming the15th, 16th and 17th blue-label politicians in Mississippi to makethat move since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Whitebelieves more will follow on the state and local levels asqualifying for the 2011 election begins next week.

“Cindy’s not alone. I believe we’ll see across the state people whoqualify as Republicans from governor down to constable,” he said.”I think we’ll have the biggest Republican primary we’ve ever hadin Mississippi.”