A North Carolina sheriff is leaving the Democratic Party, blasting the "new Democrats in Washington" who "attack and degrade all law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day."
"The present Democratic Party has left me," Gaston County sheriff Alan Cloninger said in a Wednesday statement. Cloninger, who calls himself a "conservative Democrat, as my father and family have always been," said the party he grew up in "no longer exists."
Cloninger, who announced he is retiring at the end of his term, specifically criticized the national Democratic Party for demeaning police officers, who "protect the people and in return are given no respect," which he called "wrong and unjustified."
Cloninger is not the only sheriff to break from the Democratic Party in recent days. Smyth County, Va., sheriff Chip Shuler said on Monday that he "left the Democrat Party in the same way they left law enforcement" and described himself as a "proud member of the Republican Party." And Dickenson County, Va., sheriff Jeremy Fleming, a registered Democrat, endorsed Republican Jason Miyares for state attorney general, saying Democrats have left police officers "defenseless and unsupported."
The sheriffs' statements come as Democrats face an intraparty struggle over police defunding. In the wake of last year's protests following the death of George Floyd, left-wing Democrats pushed for cities to defund police departments, saying that law enforcement is intrinsically racist. Some House Democrats, however, have blamed the effort for the party's surprising losses in the chamber in November. Seventy-five percent of voters, meanwhile, say more police officers are needed as violent crime has spiked this year, according to a recent poll.