State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. announced on Friday that he will leave the Republican Party to become a member of the state’s Independence Party. In July, Thiele eyed a switch to the Democratic camp but has remained mum about the issue for the last several months. However, it would seem the state of affairs in Albany has finally pushed Thiele to change his political allegiances.
“Today, I am convinced State legislative leaders are too invested in the status quo and business as usual to bring genuine reform to Albany,” said Thiele in a statement released last Friday.
During a later interview, Thiele said the Republican Party had adopted a “go along to get along,” lackadaisical approach to politics in the State Assembly. He added that although several Republican assemblymen and women would be more than willing to object to certain pieces of legislation, they rarely proposed viable alternatives to a bill.
In the past, Thiele has received criticism from members of his party for voting in ways that differed with the common Republican political stance.
“Most recently, I voted for the marriage equality bill and some in the party were opposed to that position,” said Thiele, citing the bill circulated through the Assembly in May which sought to legalize civil unions between gay and lesbian couples. As a member of the Independence Party, Thiele believes he won’t be as beholden to party leaders or be expected to “toe the line” on certain issues.
Thiele has been a member of the Assembly since 1995. A ranking Republican assemblyman, Thiele has participated on several committees. Yet when Thiele first secured the position of Southampton Town Supervisor in 1991 he ran as a member of the independent Southampton Party, which he helped to form.
“In 1991, I was convinced that the only way to bring change and reform to Southampton Town was to run as an independent … and the Southampton Party did bring real change. Why enroll as a [member of the Independence Party] now? It is my belief that the State Independence Party represents the best chance to fight for the changes and reforms that I think average New Yorkers long to see from their state government,” said Thiele in the statement.
“This was the most frustrating year [of all my years] in Albany. The Senate shut down for five weeks,” added Thiele during an interview. “There is excessive partisanship. People are more concerned with power than those they represent. It didn’t seem to me that things were going to change by doing business as usual.”
In his released statement, Thiele asserted that the Republican Party was once in a position to effect change but has recently seen a drop in support.
“The number of Republican Assembly members has dwindled from 58 to 40 in little more than a decade. Every month, registered voters are abandoning the Republican Party in droves,” noted Thiele.
He attributes these decreases to the party’s apparent inability to protect the economic interests of their constituents, which he notes is ironic, as fiscal responsibility has always been a cornerstone of the Republican philosophy.
“The Republican Party in the Assembly no longer speaks to the pocketbook issues everyday people care about. Here’s just one example. This year … the Legislature passed an MTA bailout plan with a crippling new payroll,” stated Thiele in the release. “My decision today allows me to continue to be that independent voice to change an unacceptable status quo without fear of being called disloyal by party leaders.”