35th District Judge Steve Ellis said Friday he will seek re-election next year as a Republican, becoming the fourth local office-holder to switch parties in the past two years.

Brown County Judge Ray West, County Clerk Margaret Wood and District Clerk Jan Brown, former Democrats, won re-election in 2006 as Republicans.

“I intend to seek re-election in 2008 as a Republican,” Ellis, who was first elected district judge as a Democrat in 1996, said in a written statement. “I am changing my party affiliation even though, as I have said for many years, I wish the elections of district judges in Texas were held in a nonpartisan fashion.”

Ellis stressed being a Democrat or a Republican is not the issue to him. “The individual candidate and the merits of that candidate are what matters,” Ellis said. “As a judge, all of my decisions have to be made without regard to party affiliation, economic status, race, religion or anything else that categorizes people.

“I am changing parties because even though I have been disappointed with leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties recently and in the past, I feel that on the whole at this time the Republican Party has a greater appreciation of the conservative values we in Central Texas hold dear.

“Due to the polarization of the parties, it has become impossible for me to remain a conservative and stay in the Democratic Party.”

Ellis said he realizes the switch is counter to present political winds.

He said, however, he is a conservative person and was one of many conservative Democrats in Central Texas when he was first elected to public office in 1980.

“Since then, the party allegiance has changed for the majority of Brown County voters and many in Mills County … the people are the same,” Ellis said in the written statement.

“The party allegiance has changed for me … I am still the same. Regardless, I do not want my party affiliation to be the issue that determines whether I continue to serve the people of this judicial district when it is something that has nothing to do with the duties of my office. Vote on the basis of who I am and what I have done and not whether I have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ beside my name.”

Brown County Democratic Party Chairman Charles Stavley could not be reached Friday for comment.

Brad Locker, chairman of the Brown County Republican Party, welcomed Ellis’ announcement. “Excellent. That’s good news,” Locker said. “I’m elated about that.

“I think many politicians would say that the Democratic Party has moved away from them. We’ll welcome him. I’m tickled.”