ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – It was a decision local Democrats say they didn't see coming.
Last week five Angelina County office holders walked away from the Democratic Party to make the switch to the Republican Party.
They are District Clerk Reba Squyres, County Clerk Jo Ann Chastain, Tax Collector-Assessor Midget Sherman, Commissioner Pct. 1 Rick Harrison and Constable, Pct. 3 Belton Havard.
There were no courtesy calls for Jim Wark, the County Chair of the Angelina Democratic Party. He says the news came as a complete shock.
"You've broadsided me. I'm sorry," said Wark.
Wark along with Dennis Teal, the senior member of the State Democratic Party Executive Committee believe the decision was based on fear.
"And threats that have come to them-- if you don't change we'll beat you next time or we'll put enough money in the race to beat you," said Teal.
Teal believes the switch to the GOP puts these officials in a box.
"We see the failure of the Republicans trying to govern in Austin with again a debt that's bigger than California after 10 years of them controlling the State House, the State Senate and governorship," said Teal.
He says these new Republicans will bear the brunt of the budget deficit.
"A debt of 27 billion dollars on Texas that is going to result in decreased funding to our schools, to our local fire departments, to our local hospital districts and essential services," said Teal.
For the remaining Democrats, Teal and Wark say it's only a matter of time before the County comes back around.
"Politics tends to swing and it tends to be a pendulum. That's something that elected officials who are thinking about switching always want to keep in mind. What goes around comes around," said Teal.
"Once people finally wake up, they'll switch parties back in two years and come back to the Democrats," said Wark.
Until then, their plan is to focus more education on what's happening in East Texas, not just in Washington.
Wark says several people have contacted him, all interested in running on the Democratic ticket in upcoming elections.