In a closed-door meeting at Saks Community Center, the county party’s executive committee voted unanimously to accept Amerson’s request to join the party.
“I’m certainly appreciative and pleased with the Calhoun County Republicans’ decision,” Amerson said after the meeting. “I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Amerson said he chose to leave the Democratic Party, of which he was part of when first elected Calhoun County Sheriff in 1994, because of his conservative beliefs that fell more in line with the Republican Party.
Gene Howard, chairman of the Calhoun County Republican Party, said the committee voted unanimously to accept Amerson into the party after an initial recommendation from state Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Howard said Amerson gave a short speech and answered questions from the panel including why he had waited so long to switch parties. Amerson said he wanted to wait to serve out his term as president of the National Sheriff’s Association before making a party switch.
A potential snag in the process, according to Howard, could have been a dissenting vote from Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge. Howard said the party had Partridge lined up for the past two years to run against Amerson in the 2014 election. The party chairman said, however, that Partridge stood up during the meeting and “endorsed the sheriff and his character.”
Howard said Partridge will endorse Amerson in 2014, and Amerson will in return endorse Partridge for the sheriff’s post in 2018.
“So we have that lined up now in terms of getting Republicans into the Sheriff’s Office,” Howard said. “That was very important.”
Amerson said after the meeting he was focused on 2014, but said he appreciated Partridge’s endorsement.
Amerson’s switch to the Republican Party follows in the footsteps of several Democratic party defectors in Calhoun County in 2011, including then-Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks, former County Commissioner Eli Henderson, Circuit Judge Brian Howell, License Commissioner Barry Robertson and Coroner Pat Brown.
Only two elected Democrats remain in office in Calhoun County; Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper and Commissioner Rudy Abbott.
Sheila Gilbert, chairwoman of the Calhoun County Democratic Party, said Monday she’s confident her party can win back some seats in the upcoming 2014 election. The strategy for the party, she said, will be to encourage voter registration and turnout, and to recruit good candidates.
“It’s going to take the unexpected, sleeper, young’uns” Gilbert said on how Democratic candidates can beat incumbent Republicans in 2014. “There’s someone out there right now, taking notes, watching what’s going on, going to seminars. There’s going to be a real emergence of a smarter, younger candidates.”
Gilbert said the party will also focus on courting more black and Hispanic voters, who make up a large percentage of unregistered eligible voters in the state of Alabama.
Howard said the Republican party is ready to make a sweep of county seats in 2014, and is working on vetting candidates for the license commissioner seat and Rudy Abbott’s spot on the commission.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.