SIDNEY — A longtime Shelby County Republican has announced his intention to leave the party.
Christopher R. Gibbs, of Maplewood, sent an email to Aaron Heilers, Shelby County Republican Party chairman, Thursday, announcing he was leaving the party.
“Be advised I resign my position as an elected member of the Shelby County Republican Party representing Salem East this date,” Gibbs wrote in the email to Heilers.
When contacted, Heilers said he received Gibbs’ email and he didn’t have a comment about his resignation other than that everyone is “entitled to make their own decisions on whether or not to serve in an elected position.”
Gibbs also sent an email to the Shelby County Board of Elections announcing his resignation.
“Be advised I have resigned my seat as elected member of the Shelby County Republican Party Central Committee representing Salem East. Please update records accordingly,” wrote Gibbs. ”In addition, I no longer will identify as Republican. Beginning this date I will self identify as ‘unaffiliated.’”
Gibbs said the decision to leave the party was a longtime coming.
“This goes way back to when I gave up the (Shelby County Republican Party executive) chairmanship back in 2014. At that time I knew I was out of step with the populist direction which the party was headed, particularly on immigration reform and electing pragmatic moderate republicans to district, state and national offices. After the 2016 election, it was clear to me that the local, state and national party apparatus just didn’t represent my political moorings any longer. But what’s important is I have not changed. The party has moved, not me,” said Gibbs.
And this wasn’t an easy decision, he said.
“I’ve been a lifelong Republican so this was a terribly difficult decision. I take it very seriously and did not make this call lightly. It’s like bidding an old friend goodbye,” said Gibbs. “My family is forever supportive of my decision. We never allow politics to seep into family. At the end of the day, we know political winds are fleeting, but family is forever.”
Gibbs said it’s hard leaving his Republican family.
“To be clear, there is no malice here. The Republican Party has been my home for a lifetime,” said Gibbs. “But as I see our elected leaders on the national stage participate in constant vitriol, division and intolerance, I know that’s not what I want to be a part of. I’m about solutions, not tearing down of people or institutions.
“I’ve represented the citizens of the Salem East precinct for more years than I can remember. I want to acknowledge my thanks to them for returning me to the role each time I asked,” said Gibbs.
In an editorial appearing on Friday’s opinion page, Gibbs outlines his reasons for leaving the party.
Gibbs cited the changing atmosphere within the Republican Party from the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush years to today as one of the reasons he’s leaving the party. The party, he said “embraced compassionate conservatism and was grounded in building something better for ourselves, our children, and our collective future.”
As the new millennium rolled out, he said, there was a change in the party where not all Americans felt they could live within the Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill” and Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light.”
“I don’t know how this period of political discourse will be framed in the future, but I am confident it will hold historical significance. It will be pointed to, debated, and reflected upon by both scholars and students alike,” Gibbs writes in his editorial. “In 15 or maybe 18 years my grandchildren will ask me what I contributed in this period. Where did I stand? Did I stand behind the comfortable fortress of party walls where I mounted night raids against my neighbors without consequence? Or did I stand and declare my independence from the incendiary dual party populist rhetoric and walk to the open battlefield with an extended hand? Did I work to build rather than tear down? Did I work to lift up rather than to shout down?
“I will tell them I chose country over party. I will tell them I chose unity over division. I will tell them I made my own declaration of independence from either political party. I will be able to tell them these things because today I am declaring my political independence,” he concluded.
For the full column, see Page 4.
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