House Oversight Chairwoman Karen MacBeth announced Monday she's leaving the Democratic Party and becoming a Republican since she thinks the GOP is more aligned with serving the public interest of Rhode Islanders.
"I think it's time that the average person like me stands up and says, 'Enough,' and while I've been a voice down here, I want to be a stronger voice," she said. "And I want to be a stronger voice for the people, and if I can do this, then there's other people out there that can do it, too, because this is the only way we're going to be able to turn this around."
MacBeth has served in the House since first winning election as a Cumberland Democrat in 2008. She works as a school principal in Woonsocket.
She said her decision to switch parties was influenced by a combination of factors, including the state's losing investment in 38 Studios, under-performance of the state pension fund, and the speed with which the General Assembly approved truck tolls earlier this session.
"I think it was time for me to leave the Democratic Party ...." she said. "I feel that its become a party of politicians versus a party of the people, and I want to represent the people."
Before MacBeth's move, the Republican Party had 11 members in the House and another rep, Blake Filippi, an independent, who caucuses with the GOP.
In a statement, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said, "I was informed this afternoon by Representative MacBeth that she is switching affiliation to the Republican Party. Since a chairmanship is a leadership position, I will be replacing her.”
MacBeth said she is undecided for now about whether she'll seek re-election this fall, or challenge First District US Representative David Cicilline.
State GOP Chairman Brandon Bell hailed the move by MacBeth to join the GOP:
"In her 8 years as a legislator, Representative MacBeth has been honest, independent-minded and courageous," Bell said in a statement. "Karen has been relentless in investigating the 38 Studios debacle as Chairwoman of House Oversight Committee. She has also been honest and fearless in her opposition to the toxic tolling plan."
"Her honesty, independence and courage on Smith Hill shows that she is dedicated to servin the public rather than being self serving," Bell continued. "The Republican Party is proud to have her join us in our fight for good government."