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St. Lawrence Legislator Peck becomes a Democrat

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GOUVERNEUR — St. Lawrence County Legislator Donald A. Peck has switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat because he no longer thinks the GOP represents his thinking.

“This has been coming for a long time. It’s a decision I haven’t taken lightly,” Mr. Peck said. “The main reason is the philosophy of the Republican Party of today isn’t the Republican Party of 25 years ago. I think it’s philosophically difficult for a moderate Republican to stay in the Republican Party.”

Mr. Peck changed his registration Monday, but the switch will not go into effect until after the general election in 2013.

Mr. Peck said he stopped caucusing with the Republicans on the board several months ago but had decided not to change his registration until after the November election and not before the county budget was passed, which took place Monday.

Legislative Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, said she expected Mr. Peck would be invited to join the Democratic caucus.

“I am quite sure the chairman of our caucus, who is Sam Burns, will reach out to him,” Mrs. Brothers said. “I expect he will not always vote with the caucus. I don’t always vote with the caucus.”

Mrs. Brothers applauded Mr. Peck for acting his conscience as he and members of his family have been lifelong Republicans.

“I admire his courage in taking that stand,” she said. “When you get more to the center of both of these parties, there’s less difference.”

Mr. Peck said he does not expect his switch to the Democrats will change the way he has voted on the board.

“I do vote with the Democrats a lot,” he said. “I found them to be open to my ideas.”

The switch gives Democrats on the board a 9-6 advantage. However, few votes fall on strict party lines.

Mr. Peck said he starting thinking about whether to stay a Republican after Dierdre K. Scozzafava, Gouverneur, then an assemblywoman, was passed over in 2007 for nomination for James W. Wright’s state Senate seat in favor of Assemblyman William A. Barclay.

Two years later, Ms. Scozzafava ran for the congressional seat won by Democrat William L. Owens but dropped out of the race after facing heavy criticism for being too liberal by national conservative commentators and some fellow Republicans, including Gov. George E. Pataki, who endorsed Douglas L. Hoffman, her Conservative opponent.

Mr. Peck had served as Gouverneur’s supervisor while Ms. Scozzafava, now deputy state secretary of state for local government, was the mayor of Gouverneur.

“What the conservative right wing did to her was disgraceful,” Mr. Peck said. “I never did get over that.”

Mr. Peck considered becoming an independent but wanted to have a party affiliation during elections without having to ask for endorsement.

Whether his switch to the Democratic Party will prompt a Republican challenger or make his re-election in two years more difficult remains unknown.

“I can’t worry about that,” Mr. Peck said. “I didn’t do it for that reason.”

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