Over the last 20 years, about four times as many Democratic state lawmakers have switched to the Republican Party as the other way around.
Eighty-three Democratic legislators have joined the GOP since 1994, compared with only 23 Republicans who became Democrats, Politico reported Wednesday. Five of those blue-to-red switches happened just this year.
One of those new Republicans, Georgia state representative Mesha Mainor, said Democrats "crucified" and "abandoned" her for supporting a school choice bill, prompting her party switch. After Mainor, who is black, announced her decision, internet trolls spammed her email with racist slurs, threats, and other abusive comments, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
North Carolina legislator Tricia Cotham, a longtime Democrat, in April announced her switch to the Republican Party, giving the GOP a veto-proof majority in the state legislature and dealing a blow to the state's Democratic governor. Louisiana state representatives Jeremy LaCombe and Francis Thompson also switched parties this year, along with West Virginia lawmaker Elliott Pritt.
Another West Virginia Democrat may be planning a switch. House Minority Leader Doug Skaff "resigned his leadership position last week" and may "shrink the Democratic Party's ranks even further" in the deep-red state, Politico reported.
The legislators' party switches come as Republicans this year upended a decades-old trend and are outnumbering Democrats for the first time since 1988, according to a Gallup poll. A New York Times report, meanwhile, found that even the millennials who "propelled Barack Obama to a decisive victory" in 2008 have started shifting Republican.
"More and more voters feel left behind by the Democratic Party," West Virginia Republican Party chairwoman Elgine McArdle said.
The party switchers struck a similar note, with Thompson saying that "nothing has changed" in his "values and principles."
The Democratic Party "has become unrecognizable to me and to so many others throughout this state and this country," Cotham said. "The party wants to villainize anyone who has free thought, free judgment, has solutions, and wants to get to work to better our state."