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BREAKING: Bentley makes it official, switches to Democratic Party

Gov. Robert Bentley delivers the 2015 State of the State Address, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Gov. Robert Bentley delivers the 2015 State of the State Address, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. (Photo: Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In what can only be described as a stunning turn of events, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday announced that he is officially becoming a Democrat just over 3 months after winning a second term as governor.

“I have done a lot of soul searching over the last few months and have decided that the Democratic Party’s platform is much more closely aligned with my core beliefs on the economy and the role of government in a free society,” the governor said. “This may take a lot of people by surprise, but I have said many times that I want to be the governor of all the people of Alabama. And while my Party affiliation will now change, my commitment to all the people of this state remains the same.”

Bentley’s Party change is the culmination of a political metamorphosis that has seen the two-term governor go from running for re-election on a “no new tax” pledge to proposing a massive $541 million tax increase.

His tax proposals have been met with fierce opposition by many Republican members the staunchly conservative Alabama legislature. But the governor says the opposition from members of what was once his own Party did not play a major role in his decision.

“It is obviously very frustrating when members of the Party you lead will not be reasonable and give your proposals a fair shake,” the governor said. “But I still think they mean well. Unfortunately they have not seen what I have seen. They have not traveled around this state and witnessed people struggling while the wealthy corporations who fund their campaigns get fatter. At the end of the day, expecting everyone to pay their fair share just does not seem to be a Republican principle — it’s an American principle, it’s a Bentley principle, but not a Republican one.”

When asked if he had been disingenuous with the voters by running as a conservative Republican, he dismissed the question offhand.

“Well this is politics,” the governor quipped. “But I’ve evolved on these issues, that’s the bottom line. And I have my staff and friends to thank for that, especially Seth, who has been an incredible sounding board throughout this process.”

Seth Hammett, the former Democratic Speaker of the Alabama House, was named the governor’s chief of staff last year and has become his closest adviser. On Wednesday, Bentley allowed Hammett to say a few words as well.

“It was an honor serving the people of Alabama as Speaker of the House for a number of years, but there’s nothing like being able to wield the authority of the executive branch to get things done,” Hammett said. “The governor was trusting enough — and bi-partisan enough — the bring me into the fold even while he was a Republican. And to now hear that I was an integral part of his transformation into the Party-transcending leader he is today is humbling, to say the least.”

Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley was indisposed and could not comment on the governor’s decision, but other Democrats hailed Bentley as the savior of their beleaguered Party.

“We’re back,” said Alabama Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross. “The governor came down on the Senate floor yesterday and told us his plan, and we said ‘Let’s go, governor. We’ve got your back. Let’s take down these Reagan-wannabes.’ Now it’s time to get down to business and stop the Tea Party loons from cutting our precious government any further.”

Yellowhammer reached out to Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, but he seemed to be confused by what was happening.

“Roberta Bentley?” Marsh asked. “Never heard of her. Listen, it’s April 1st and I’ve got to get running. There are a lot of fools running around the State House these days.”

Happy April Fools, everyone!