Annapolis alderman joins GOP

Pointing to differences over `core values,' Kelley opts to leave Democrats

February 22, 2005|By Molly Knight and Jamie Stiehm | Molly Knight and Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Noting differences over "core values," Annapolis Alderman George O. Kelley Sr. announced yesterday his departure from the Democratic Party at a news conference at state Republican Party headquarters.

Flanked by Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and several members of Kelley's family, the lifelong Democrat said he made the decision after several years of "soul-searching" and conversations with his wife, Wanda.

"Today, I announce my change of political affiliation," said Kelley, 48, pointing to what he said are the "public safety policies" and "fiscal responsibility" of the Republican Party.

The former Annapolis police officer is also the founding minister of the Praise and Deliverance Tabernacle Church in the Clay Street community of Annapolis.

His switch comes at a time of strained relations in Annapolis between Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly. Despite Kelley's move, Democrats will retain a 6-3 majority on the Annapolis city council.

Steele, a friend and fencing partner of the alderman, welcomed Kelley at a late-afternoon event in Annapolis.

"This is particularly important for the Republican Party of Maryland because we're trying to grow and diversify," Steele said.

The state's first black lieutenant governor made a show of racial unity within the state party.

"This is the face of the Republican Party," Steele said, pointing to state GOP Chairman John M. Kane, who is white, and then to Kelley, who is black. "And this is [also] the face of the Republican Party," Steele said.

Steele added that he and Kelley talked politics over a recent fencing match but that the conversation did not include any "hard sell, push or press."

The first-term council member's switch was met coolly by Democrats.

Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said: "It's our understanding that Mr. Kelley was going to face difficult primary opposition this fall and opted to hold his seat."

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, a Democrat who presides over city council meetings, said Kelley's move did not come as a complete surprise. "I hope he's found a home for himself."

As for the "core values" given by Kelley for his switch, Moyer said, "I think those are important values to Democrats, too. I know we have different solutions, but those are important values for all of us."

Kane welcomed Kelley as a "convert," adding: "We're looking forward to more."

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