Dec. 4—HIGH POINT — Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch of High Point announced Friday that he has switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, saying he's grown disillusioned with the Democrats during his first year on the board.
Upchurch was elected to District 6 on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in the November 2020 general election, his first bid for elected office. His district covers north High Point and parts of western Guilford County to the north of that.
Upchurch told The High Point Enterprise that his decision "is a result of actions I've witnessed, and the conversations I've heard as an elected official. It is clear to me that my values do not align with the actions of the Democratic Party."
Upchurch said that his integrity was questioned by Democratic commissioners in closed-door meetings.
"Regarding COVID-19, I was told to fall in line 'for the sake of the party' or there would be consequences," Upchurch said.
He said he was ostracized by Democratic commissioners for asking questions about COVID-19 policies, which Upchurch said he continued to do so for the sake of his constituents.
Upchurch also cited what he called unnecessary spending by the Democratic-controlled board, such as $1.8 million for a COVID-19 call center.
"The Democrats' care-free spending goes against my promise to be honest, transparent and responsible with my constituents' hard-earned money," Upchurch said.
Board Chairman Skip Alston of Greensboro, a Democrat, disputed Upchurch's characterizations.
"I'm really dumbfounded about it, because I can't really see how an elected official could make up stuff just to try to come up with an excuse to do what he probably had in his heart to do anyway," Alston told The Enterprise.
Alston said Upchurch's party switch doesn't come as a surprise to him, given Upchurch's splits from the other Democratic commissioners on votes the past two months.
Alston said neither he nor other Democratic commissioners told Upchurch "to get in line" on votes.
"If his heart is as a Republican, that's what he should do," Alston said. "But he shouldn't have to blast the Democratic Party to justify what he's doing."
Upchurch's party switch leaves Democrats with a 6-3 majority on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
Five of the nine seats will be before voters in next year's elections. Upchurch's seat won't be up until the 2024 elections.
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