Cary Town Councilman Don Frantz announced Wednesday he is changing his voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated because he’s “disgusted” with hyper-partisan politics – mostly on the national level.
The Cary Town Council is nonpartisan, but the town lists each council member’s party affiliation on its website, and candidates often receive campaign support from local parties.
Frantz is a 44-year-old mechanic who owns an auto shop in downtown Cary. He said he first registered as a Republican in the early 2000s, before he was elected to Town Council in 2007. He was previously listed as unaffiliated.
Since he entered public office, he’s been an outspoken voice for a limited government approach to town growth and has been active with the Republican party. He served as a delegate at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received campaign contributions from the Western Wake Republican Club, state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex and prominent conservative donor Bob Luddy during his 2011 re-election campaign.
Frantz said in an interview Wednesday that his views as a fiscal conservative haven’t changed.
Still, he mailed a document Tuesday to the Wake County Board of Elections to show he’s leaving the party and returning to his unaffiliated status.
Frantz is the second town-level elected official in Wake County to leave the Republican Party in the last two years.
Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears announced last May that he changed his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated shortly after winning re-election in November 2013.
Donna Williams, chairwoman of the Wake County Republican Party, said Thursday that she was unaware of Frantz’s decision.
“I’m obviously shocked by this,” she said.
While Sears cited a rift with the Wake County Republican Party as his reason for leaving – the local party endorsed Sears’ opponent in the 2013 Holly Springs mayoral race – Frantz praised local and state Republican party officials in a blog entry posted Wednesday, titled “Breaking up is hard to do.”
“They and their affiliate organizations and party volunteers have supported and worked for me in previous elections,” he wrote. “I am forever grateful for their support and proud to call many of them my friends.”
Frantz is in the final year of his second four-year term on the council. He said Republicans and Democrats in recent years have become “more obsessed with annihilating the opposition than getting things done.”
“Anything a Democrat proposes, Republicans will oppose and vice-versa,” Frantz wrote. “I am sure that if one party submitted a bill proclaiming the sky blue, the other side would oppose it … and then go on TV to rail about how blue skies are a budget buster, racist or cause global warming or something.”
Frantz cited several reasons for leaving the party: the Republican Party’s repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare “without offering a better idea”; the party’s “obsession” with social issues such as gay rights; and the party’s failed attempt to “secure the (U.S.-Mexico) border” as part of a broader immigration reform deal.
Frantz wrote that he believes in individual responsibility, American exceptionalism, a free market and a strong national defense – views he has recently expressed on Twitter.
“I would not however describe myself as a social conservative,” he wrote in the blog post. “It baffles me how the self-proclaimed party of ‘limited government’ is the first to insert themselves into someone’s bedroom or up a woman’s skirt, but I digress.”
His decision brings political balance to Cary’s Town Council, at least on paper. The Town Council will soon have two Republicans, two Democrats and two unaffiliated members, including Frantz. The seventh seat on the council is vacant.
Frantz, who represents central and northeast Cary on the council, is up for re-election in October. He said he is leaning toward seeking a third term.
“I don’t want to be defined by the letter at the end of my name,” he said, adding that he has no aspirations to seek higher political office.
Williams declined to speculate whether Frantz’s move would prompt the local committee to withhold support for him. She said the Wake GOP committee of about 70 people votes each year on who the party should endorse and support.
The party’s top priority is keeping taxes low in Wake County and each of its 12 municipalities, Williams said. Cary has the lowest property tax rate in the county. Frantz is generally well-regarded among local conservatives and in good standing with the party, she said.
“I haven’t had any complaints,” Williams said. “And if people aren’t happy I definitely hear about it.”
Williams said she plans to reach out to Frantz.
“I’ve always said, ‘If you want to change D.C., it starts right here,” she said. “Nobody is 100 percent happy with anything in this world.”
A balanced board
The Cary Town Council usually has seven voting members, including the mayor. But the council decided to leave the District D seat open after its most recent representative, Gale Adcock, won a seat in the N.C. House. Here’s a breakdown of each member’s party affiliation:
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht: Democrat
Mayor Pro Tem Jack Smith: Republican
Councilwoman Lori Bush: Democrat
Councilman Don Frantz: Unaffiliated*
Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson: Republican
Councilman Ed Yerha: Unaffiliated
*Frantz said he will become unaffiliated after the Wake County Board of Elections processes his paperwork.