County commissioner switches political parties to become a Democrat because of ‘political polarization’

Gary Childs

Gary Childs started his time on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners by bucking the establishment.

The establishment at the time was long-time Commissioner Jack LaBelle, the political powerhouse who served on the county board for 43 years, 12 of which as its chairperson. By a margin of nearly 2-to-1, Childs picked off the venerable LaBelle in the 2012 Republican primary.

And today, after a lifetime as a self-described moderate Republican, Childs has once again bucked the political establishment — and his fellow commissioners on the all-Republican board  — as he switched parties to become a Democrat.

Childs apparently reached the end of his partisan rope when the county board voted to deny health insurance coverage for abortion in all cases, except when the life of the mother is in danger, to its non-union employees. He and fellow commissioner Dennis Dolan were the only votes against the proposal.

I wrote about that vote, using the memory of Jack LaBelle to criticize the commissioners.

In a letter to his fellow commissioners, quoted in a story on WHMI, Childs wrote that the “increasing political polarization” has become “more and more disturbing” to him.

“As cliché as it may sound, I am not leaving my Republican Party as much as I feel it has left me,” Childs wrote.

I have a feeling Childs will need a suit of armor should he choose to run for the seat he’s held since 2012. I am sure the local GOP is at this very moment out beating the bushes (or cruising the Green Oak Roundabouts in Childs’ district) for a candidate to run against him in 2020. That said, maybe his luck will hold as the Dems didn’t find anyone to run against him in 2018 when he was the Republican candidate; he received 67 percent of the votes in that election.

By virtue of his changing parties, Childs becomes just the second Democrat in my memory to serve on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. The first (as well as the only elected) Democrat on the board that I can think of was Jake Donohue of Gregory; he won his seat in 1987 and served until his death in 1996, a week before the general election. His daughter, Judy Donohue, replaced him on the ballot, but lost the election by less than 50 votes to Republican David Reader. Judy Donohue went on to be appointed Unadilla Township supervisor after a resignation in 1997.

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