Arizona senator moves to the Republican Party

Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay, R-Ganado, officially announces his transition from the Democratic to the Republican Party at the Arizona Capitol Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Phoenix. Begay said he switched parties because the Republican platform aligned more closely with his beliefs. He said one example is the party’s emphasis on self-reliance. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — A state senator who was the only non-Republican to vote for this year’s state budget switched parties on Monday, a move by Democrats that just confirmed what they already believed.

Democrats had questioned Sen. Carlyle Begay’s political leanings since he was nominated to represent parts of the Navajo Nation in 2013. Although he listed his address as Ganado on reservation, he had lived in Gilbert for many years, the same town where Republican Senate Speaker Andy Biggs lives.

He was elected to a full term in 2014.

Begay said he re-registered as a Republican because the GOP platform aligned more closely with his beliefs.

“The party has proven to me that it is driven by the prospect of self-reliance, self-determination and empowerment. And that is very important to me because many of our communities, especially communities rural, are on the heels of the government’s paternalistic views,” Begay said Monday. “One of the things that I think is really important for the future of our tribal communities is an era of self-determination.”

Democrats said the party switch was no surprise and would actually help them win back the heavily Democratic 7th District because Begay will have to run as a member of the party he actually supports.

“What I think is fair is that he is finally being honest with his constituents about who he really is,” said Minority Leader Senator Katie Hobbs. “I don’t think it’s fair that he was handpicked by the Republicans in the first place and completely disenfranchised this entire legislative district to serve their own agenda.”

Alexis Tameron, state chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said she was not surprised by Begay’s decision.

“The saying goes, ‘you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep,’ and Senator Begay knows the residents of Legislative District 7 have been watching his actions, his votes, and the friendships he keeps. forged during his time in the Legislature,” Tameron said.

Republicans happily welcomed Begay.

Biggs said he was grateful to have Begay’s “fearlessness and perseverance.” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, said Begay voters will be “well served by Senator Begay’s commitment to individual freedom, financial responsibility and personal empowerment.”

“I believe the voters in my constituency elected me to represent their voice, their needs and their priorities,” Begay said. “They don’t look at the letter after your name.”

Republicans now have an 18-12 majority in the Senate. They also control the House.