Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is changing his party registration from Republican to Democratic.
Kozachik announced the decision in a letter to his constituents Friday.
In it, he said the Republican party is moving too far to the right, influenced by what he calls a small but vocal faction.
“I do not believe that the Republican Party, as it is currently represented in their leadership, reflects this community," Kozachik said in an interview. "Whether that be from the standpoint of immigration or women’s rights issues, they have been totally disengaged from our conversations at the council table."
He said in his letter that he appreciates the support he has received from the party, but that it's now an ideological outlier. Kozachik said he will continue to study each issue individually as a Democrat, just as he did while a member of the Republican Party.
“It’s just gotten to the point where I want to establish a working relationship with the rest of the council, and the further to the right the Republican party gets the more difficult that has become, and I decided this is as good a time as any," he said.
He said he thought about switching to independent, or no party affiliation, but said joining the rest of the council in the Democratic Party will make for a better working relationship.
"If nothing else, it's a message that is being sent to the Pima County GOP that if you want to be relevant in this community, and if you want to attract candidates that reflect kind of the sense of the community, then you're going to have to pivot back toward the center again," Kozachik said.
He is known for straying from the Republican Party line, for which other Republicans have criticized him.
Kozachik's party switch came three days after he and the Tucson Police Department co-sponsored a gun turn-in program that netted more than 200 firearms. Gun-rights advocates, including several Republicans, criticized him for the event, calling it grandstanding and nothing more than a publicity stunt.
He said Republicans were out of touch in their reaction.
Kozachik has been the lone Republican on the council since Mayor Bob Walkup's third term as mayor ended 13 months ago.
He has been on the council since 2009, and his seat is up for election in the next cycle. He said he has not decided whether to run for office again.
The timing of the election is up in the air because the city is in court fighting a state law that would move city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years. The outcome could affect this year’s scheduled city elections.