Here we go again with rumors about the Cleveland politician known for years as “the squirrel” switching to the Republican Party. Dual rumors about longtime Commissioner Melvin Hunt being indicted and about him changing parties surfaced weeks ago and, like many of the hot political rumors of 2010, they seemed to fade away – only to possibly come back another day. But is the rumor plausible? Will he be indicted? Will he switch parties?
Why would any well informed Republican activist want Melvin Hunt to switch to the Republican Party? The short answer: they wouldn’t. But many of the people running the party these days were not involved back in the days Hunt and others were effectively and aggressively cementing their names in annals of Liberty County Democratic party history. Their excitement over recent victories coupled with their lack of appreciation and knowledge of the road leading to these victories could cause some unnecessary mistakes.
New Republicans may be uninformed, but any Democratic activist in the party that is well informed knows that Commissioner Hunt has been a loyal warrior for their party. He is somewhat of a living legend. For years he has worked tirelessly to prevent the election of even one Republican. He has made phone calls and called in favors and twisted arms to do everything from stopping a Republican candidate placing yard signs in certain locations to encouraging the public ridiculing of well known Republicans to silencing criticism of Democrats and news stories about questionable activities that could still surface in our local courtrooms one day.
Whether he switches or not and whether he is accepted by Republican leadership or not, Hunt is no Republican. Only late comers to the Republican Party could possibly even consider him anything but a warrior for the Democratic Party. No doubt Hunt would continue being a Democrat if he thought he could continue to win re-election under the donkey banner, and no doubt they want him to continue his long career as a Democrat. He has been an effective guardian of their power. Infamous tales of paying people in one of his precincts to drive around and gather up voters and hand out cash for votes for Democratic candidates are only the tip of the iceberg of the legend of Melvin Hunt and his long career as “the squirrel” running the north part of the county.
Always looking to cut a deal to strengthen his hand, has Hunt found someone in the new Republican leadership circle that is so desperate to say “we win, we win” that they will embrace one of the main sources of the political stench that motivated the efforts of those who revived Republican efforts after decades of total capitulation in the mid 1990’s? Perhaps, if they do, Hunt should be given a new nickname – “the termite”. Because new movements and revived political parties always rot from within and giving Hunt that nickname may make future Republicans more conscious of the political history of the county.
The goal of the original resurgence of Republicans who wanted to run candidates and challenge the Democrats back in the late 1990’s was to rid ourselves of local politicians who were corrupt or who stood by and allowed corruptness and to find people with so much integrity they would not be able to place their names and reputations on the same team with people like the Clintons. Commissioner Hunt was one of the main ones targeted. And now over ten years later he has not even separated himself from Barack Obama at this late date. Will the 2010 election results change that? Who cares? Hunt has defined himself forever. Any Republicans embracing him or any other party switchers (at this late date) do the same.
The party should stand for something. There is an easy answer for when is “too late”? After Obama showed us what being a Democrat was all about, Melvin Hunt showed us he was on board with him. Other local officials along with Hunt who didn’t jump off of that train now deserve to be left at the station next election. If Hunt switches, any decent opponent that runs against him in the 2012 primary should receive a ringing endorsement from Republican leadership. If it means anything at all to run with the elephants, the donkeys should be trampled in a stampede to rid ourselves of the leftover good ole boy system we endured for so long.
What is the problem, do we have to HUNT for better candidates?
Liberty Dispatch Contributor