North Las Vegas Mayor John J. Lee announced Tuesday that he is switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, citing the party’s leftward shift and fueling speculation that he may run for a higher office in 2022.
Lee made the announcement during an appearance on Fox and Friends early Tuesday, saying the state Democratic Party’s recent leadership takeover by members of the Democratic Socialists of America had convinced him to finally switch political parties.
“Though I’ve been a registered Democrat on paper my entire life, I made the switch in my heart a long time ago, because on some things, there’s simply no compromise,” he said in a statement. “That’s why I voted for President Trump twice. That’s why I had an A+ rating from the NRA and their endorsement in my time in the state senate. I refuse to compromise my pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment values. I know there are countless others who want to make the switch, because it means the difference between hope and despair for their children and grandchildren. I hope they join me.”
Lee’s campaign said he was the most prominent elected official to switch parties since President Joe Biden took office earlier this year. His updated website urges others to make the “switch,” and outlines several broad policy objectives — “smaller government, lower taxes, free speech, protect unborn life, protect the right to bear arms, and the embrace (of) the spirit of liberty that made America so great in the first place.”
In a brief interview last month, Lee didn’t deny interest in running for a higher office in 2022, saying he was taking many phone calls on the subject.
“I’m not prepared to make a decision right now, but there is some dissatisfaction with both parties right now,” he said earlier in March.
Prior to running for mayor, Lee served two terms in the Assembly from 1996 to 2000, and two terms in the state Senate from 2004 to 2012. Lee lost a state Senate re-election bid in 2012 in the primary election to fellow Democrat and current office-holder, Sen. Pat Spearman.
After winning election as mayor of North Las Vegas in 2013, Lee helped shepherd the city through fiscal troubles that saw the city shed half of its staff, reduced its budget by $20 million and drastically reduced services, while seeing its bond rating drop to junk status. Lee has been a strong proponent of economic development, which has included a concentrated effort to build out the Apex industrial park and streamline permitting processes for new construction.
But his tenure as mayor hasn’t been without controversy. Lee and the city were investigated by the FBI in 2015 after reports of suspected child pornography were found on his iPad. Lee dismissed the allegations as a “hack job” and the probe was later dropped because of a lack of evidence.
Lee also made headlines in 2018 over the messy ouster of former North Las Vegas City Manager Qiong Liu, who was publicly fired by the City Council and replaced by current City Manager Ryann Juden, who had been working for the city (as Lee’s chief of staff and assistant city manager) and had worked on Lee’s political campaigns.