Hieatt switching parties

Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt holds up the paperwork to formally change his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican during a press conference on Monday.

CEDAR BLUFF, Va. —  Tazewell County’s sheriff announced Monday evening that he was resigning from the Tazewell County Democratic Committee and changing his affiliation to the Republican Party.

Sheriff Brian Hieatt told supporters meeting at The Old Mill restaurant in downtown Cedar Bluff, Va. that he was leaving the Democratic Party.

“After much prayer, thought and deliberation, I am giving my resignation for the Tazewell County Democratic Committee,” Hieatt said. “I appreciate the friendships and support I have had through the years by being affiliated with this party; however, I feel the Democratic Party’s interests, especially on the state and national levels, have continued to rapidly go in the opposite direction of the beliefs that my wife and I share.”

Hieatt said that changes in state laws impacting law enforcement helped to drive his decision. On Father’s Day, he recalled seeing Democratic protestors in front of the Tazewell County Courthouse holding an upside down American flag and waving signs saying “Defund the Police.”

The sheriff said he has worked well with the county’s elected Democratic officials.

“I’m not saying our locally elected Democratic officials are bad. What has upset me is on the state and national level,” he said. "I think our locally elected Democrats truly care for our people in Tazewell County, but the ones in the state and national level do not care about our citizens. 

“The day after the election we were hit with several Democratic proposed laws to infringe on our gun rights that I, along with all our (Tazewell) Board of Supervisors, spoke out against,” Hieatt said. “Along with several of my deputies, I attended a mass protest in Richmond because I believe in the right to bear arms and the right to be able to defend ourselves." 

Law impacting the penalties people convicted of crimes could face was another reason for the decision, Hieatt stated. For example, starting July 1 this year, a person must steal at least $1,000 to be charged with a felony. The former amount was $500.

“Why are we being easy on criminals, not the victims?” Hieatt said later. “Laws need to make it harder on criminals and not on victims.”

Hieatt had he had not changed parties yet, but he was submitting his application. He held up the form for the audience to see.

“I’ve got to fill out the application and turn it in,” he said. 

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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