All politics are local, local politics doubly so.

Republican victories this month to sweep elections in Virginia, and defeat the mulit-millionaire incumbent and former U.S. Senator in New Jersey, show the rumors of the Republican Party's death have been greatly exaggerated. In Mississippi, several locally elected Democratic officials joined the GOP last week.

Are these local Republican victories a referendum on President Barack Obama? It doesn't really matter. On one hand, you have conservative Democrats who no longer wish to belong to the brand of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and independents who are voting Republican. On the other hand, if local politics have nothing to do with Obama, Republican victories and local switches still hurt.

Mississippians leaving the Democratic Party and joining the Republican Party last week from Simpson County included: Sheriff Kenneth Lewis, Supervisor Mickey Berry, Justice Court Judge Eugene Knight, Constable Dan Easterling, and D'Lo Alderman Michael Shoemaker. Another to make the switch was 13th Circuit District Attorney Eddie Bowen who is the lead prosecutor for four counties: Smith, Jasper, Covington and Simpson. A seventh person from Simpson, Terry Tutor, was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to be coroner, a vacancy created by the death of a Democratic official. Tutor previously ran as a Republican and while it is a pick-up for the GOP, it is not a switch.

A majority of Simpson County elected officials will now face reelection first in the Republican Primary. Couple that with a growing Republican dominance in statewide offices and you create a situation where a conservative in Simpson County has to vote in the Republican Party to express their choice for supervisor, sheriff, and governor.

In 1991, when the Vicksburg contractor Kirk Fordice beat Democrat turned Republican State Auditor Pete Johnson, Republicans accounted for 8 percent of all votes cast in the gubernatorial primary; 92 percent of the votes were cast in the Democratic Primary.

The following four elections showed a steady primary shift to the GOP statewide. Democrats saw a twenty point share drop from 1991 to 2007; two years ago Democrats had 69.3 percent of primary votes to the Republican 30.7 percent. In 1991, fewer than 64,000 votes picked the Republican nominee for governor who went on to win in the general election. In 2007, nearly 200,000 voters endorsed the unopposed incumbent Haley Barbour in his reelection primary.

If local elected officials continue to make the switch in the coming two years, and Republicans have a contested statewide primary for governor and lieutenant governor, expect that trend to continue.

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Brad White, a native of Simpson County, says Republicans can give much of the thanks to the Democratic Party, "Look at the way Democrats treated their own elected officials like George Dale who supported George W. Bush over John Kerry. They threatened to purge them from the party and not allow them to run as Democrats. They want party purity. Well, I intend on giving them as much party purity as they can stand."

White said the two party's platforms provide a contrast between a conservative Republican party and a growingly more liberal Democratic party. "I don't agree with my mother on everything, but we're still family," the chairman said, "but if you're conservative and you're a Democrat, they want you to fall in line behind President Obama." White said the GOP will welcome and recruit conservatives who no longer feel at home in the Democratic Party.

It has happened before. The Clinton years from 1993 to 2001 created an atmosphere ripe for Republican growth through disenchanted Democrats.

Between the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 and Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck's switch to the Republican Party in 2002, about 50 Mississippi Democratic elected officials left to join the Republican Party, including Rep. Mike Parker in 1995. Nationwide, the Clinton administration watched as more than 440 Democrat elected officials switched to the GOP in eight years.

It may be time for the GOP to start counting again.

The six Democratic elected officials switching last week, added to the switch of Rep. Billy Nicholson earlier this year, putting the Mississippi GOP at converting an elected Democrat to their side once every six weeks since the inauguration of Barack Obama. No one expects that pace to remain constant, but if the Mississippi Republican Party continues to draw Democratic elected officials into the fold, it doesn't matter whether it is a referendum on a growingly unpopular Democratic presidential administration, or just local politics. Either way, it is bad news for Democrats, doubly so for local ones.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at