Sport, Stephens announce party switch

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

Two Crenshaw County commissioners traded their blues for reds as commissioners Michelle Stephens and Merrill Sport made their swap to the Republican Party official.

The duo held a press conference on the front steps of the Crenshaw County Courthouse Friday afternoon, and a sizable crowd of the community’s Republican voters met them with open arms.

Perry Hooper Jr., former member of the Alabama House of Representatives, served as master of ceremonies for the brief conference and expressed his excitement of the two new Republican additions.

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“It’s great to be a Michelle Stephens American,” he said. “It’s great to be a Merrill Sport American.  And by God, it’s great to be a Trump American.”

Hooper introduced Stephens first, who he called “a great family lady, a great wife, a great momma and a great business lady.”

Stephens began by thanking all in attendance for her support of Crenshaw County’s District 2, while also reassuring citizens that she would remain the same person the community has always known regardless of her party affiliation.

“I decided to change parties because my beliefs are in line with today’s republican party,” she said. “I’m the same person—I’m just changing parties.

“I love Crenshaw County, and I love the people that live here.  Crenshaw County is a place where we love and care for each other. I appreciate your confidence in me to do what’s best for Crenshaw County.”

Sport expressed similar gratitude before directly addressing questions he’d seen on social media regarding the reason for the switch, and particularly the timing of the announcement.

The matter of timing was the simpler of the two explanations—both commissioners are heading into their third term.

“We might as well announce what our plans are for the future, and that it is to try to run again, and on the republican platform,” Sport said. “So if anyone wants to run against us, they know where we stand.  We’re not ashamed of the change, and we’re not ashamed to go ahead and put it out there for everyone to know where we stand.”

As for the why, Sport said that Republican officials have an inherent advantage in the state of Alabama when in comes to information.

“The mother hen of the state of Alabama is the Republican Party,” he continued. “We only have one Republican on the Crenshaw County Commission, and Michelle and I have felt for a long time that the county needs to be represented from a Republican standpoint because we will be in the know.

“There are emails and communications flying around, and with us being on the Democratic side, we were the last ones to know.  We want to be more informed.  We’ll have more information, and knowledge is king.  If you know what’s going on ahead of the curve, you’re going to be better prepared.”

Both commissioners also received personalized welcomes to the Republican Party from Donald Trump Jr.

“I want to personally welcome you to the Republican Party,” Trump’s letter read.

“It takes a real act of political courage to switch parties.  Your hard work as a county commissioner has been greatly appreciated.  I know you will be an assist to the Republican Party at the local, state and national level.”