Alamance-Burlington school board member Dan Ingle – one of three new members elected in the 2022 general election and part of a slate that had been backed by the Alamance County GOP – confirmed for The Alamance News that he has changed his voter registration to unaffiliated.
“I’m joining what’s becoming the majority party because I’m so disgruntled, particularly on the national level, with the infighting,” Ingle said in an interview Wednesday morning. “They can’t get anything done.”
“The fastest-growing group is the unaffiliated – they’ve already surpassed the Republicans and, I believe, the Democrats in North Carolina,” Ingle said.
The latest voter registration statistics from the State Board of Elections (SBE) show that in Alamance County, there are: 38,116 voters who are registered as unaffiliated; 37,040 voters registered as Democrats; and 36,210 Republicans.
Statewide voter registration statistics show a similar pattern. According to SBE data as of November 11, there were: nearly 2.7 million voters in N.C. registered as unaffiliated; 2.4 million registered as Democrats; and 2.2 million voters registered as Republicans across the state.
“My wife and I talked about and prayed on it, and we both switched to unaffiliated Friday morning,” Ingle said, but added that the change in party affiliation isn’t yet publicly available through the SBE website.
“I think the parties have left the people,” he told the newspaper Wednesday. “It seems like to me there are a lot of different factions in both parties, and they’re busy fighting each other rather than getting the business of the people done.”
Asked how he might defend his decision to leave the Republican Party, given that the local GOP had supported him during last year’s school board race, he said, “I thank them for backing me, but in my humble opinion, in a nonpartisan race, I would hope that both parties would walk away from that, and let it be [nonpartisan]. “If my health is still good in four years, I’ll run as unaffiliated and see what happens,” Ingle added.
“Just because I switched to unaffiliated, with my values, it doesn’t mean I won’t vote straight Republican next time,” Ingle told the newspaper Wednesday. “I might have to hold my nose on a couple of them, but you do what you’ve got to do.” He also recalled in the interview that, during his previous tenure as a Republican state legislator, he had been ranked by Civitas (a conservative-leaning think tank in Raleigh) as the fourth-most conservative member in the state house.
“I stood on the floor of the state house and looked up at the balcony [filled with members of the] N.C. Association of Educators and said, ‘It’s time for you folks to stop indoctrinating and get back to educating our kids,’” Ingle recalled of his remarks during one session of the General Assembly. He was later heralded as a “representative who would reach across the aisle but was always there when his caucus needed him” by a then-commentator for The (Raleigh) News & Observer, Ingle recalled in the interview.
Ingle isn’t the only current member of the ostensibly nonpartisan school board to have eschewed traditional party affiliations.
Donna Westbrooks had been registered as a Democrat when she was elected to the school board in 2020 but has since switched her voter registration to unaffiliated, according to the SBE.
In a brief phone interview with The Alamance News Wednesday evening, Westbrooks recalled that she had registered as a Democrat when she turned 18 because that’s what her mother advised her to do. She said she switched to unaffiliated this past summer. “I thought, ‘we’re a nonpartisan board; that’s what I need to be.’
“It doesn’t matter to me in terms of who’s going to support me, Republican Party, Democratic Party,” Westbrooks explained in the interview. “I hope, as long as I’ve been in education, people know me from that – parents and former students know the kind of teacher I was and the kind of administrator I was. I’m just going to leave it in God’s hands if I decide to run again; I’ll still stay involved with the schools. Will I file again? Probably, but if I don’t win, I’ll be okay with that. I’m leaving it in God’s hands.”
Another board member who had been backed by the Alamance County GOP for last year’s school board race, Chuck Marsh, announced on Facebook earlier this fall that he was considering switching his voter registration to unaffiliated. He did not respond to an inquiry at the time from The Alamance News. The SBE still lists him as a registered Republican.
Amid a discussion Tuesday afternoon about filling the vacancy created by Patsy Simpson’s resignation in April, Marsh revisited his apparent dissatisfaction with the local GOP.
“I’m conservative, but I’m going to register independent,” Marsh said, prior to voting to appoint two-time former school board candidate Seneca Rogers to serve out the remainder of Simpson’s term. “Somebody told me when I ran for school board [in 2022] you have to have the support of the Republican Party.”
Marsh alluded this week to contentious discussions with Alamance County’s commissioners during a series of meetings that the two boards held in the last week of August to discuss their options for funding $26.2 million in costs for mold removal. ABSS officials had said that mold had been discovered at 33 facilities – and toxic black mold, at 15 schools – just before the school year was set to start on August 28, prompting a two-week delay in the first day of school.
“We went through the mold process, and we had to battle to clear mold from our schools,” Marsh said at Tuesday’s work session. “We had to battle for three days to find money. I didn’t feel supported. Keep in mind, the Republican Party holds all the seats in the county commissioners’ world. There [were] only three people – [Pam] Thompson, Craig Turner, and Steve Carter – that fought for us. I mean, they fought for three days for us. The other [commissioners] are the reason I don’t align with the Republican Party, and I will be switching to independent.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Charles Parker, one of the three new school board members elected in November 2022 and who was also backed by the local Republican Party, has made no public declaration of any plans he might have to defect from the GOP; and he remains registered as a Republican, according to the SBE.
The other current school board members – chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves, vice chairman Ryan Bowden, as well as Marsh and Parker – remain registered as Republicans, according to the SBE.
Seneca Rogers, who was appointed Tuesday afternoon to serve the remaining portion of former school board member Patsy Simpson, is registered as a Democrat, as is Simpson.
Though Simpson had announced her resignation from the school board in April, due to an impending move to rural Virginia, she continues to be registered to vote in North Carolina and as a Democrat, according to the state elections board.