SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Paula Pennypacker, an unsuccessful 1993 Republican candidate for mayor of Toledo, has parted company with her party to endorse Democratic President Obama for re-election.
Ms. Pennypacker, who ran as a Republican for the Arizona state legislature in 2010, said her side-switching in the presidential race has turned friends into enemies, but she’s determined to make a make a stand against what she said is the excessive rightward drift of the Republican Party in Arizona.
“I have never seen a more polarized environment. It has cost me friends; horrible hateful emails. Romney, I never believe anything that comes out of his mouth. Obama is going to win,” she said in a telephone interview from Scottsdale.
She said she agrees more with Mr. Obama than Mr. Romney on abortion rights, gay rights, Obamacare, and immigration reform, all of which she supports.
“We witnessed the largest transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street that has decimated urban America. Never again. I am voting for the candidate who I believe is the least sold out to Wall Street and will help rebuild the middle class. That would be Obama,” Ms. Pennypacker said.
“We don’t need to define the meaning of rape. We need to redefine the meaning of Republican. I think Romney has sold out to corporate America,” Ms. Pennypacker said. “Obama has a better economic plan with the tax reform and getting the economy going again. Obama gets that in order to deal with the deficit we need to increase revenues and cut spending.”
Ms. Pennypacker, 54, acknowledged that she sounds like a Democrat.
“I’m beginning to wonder that too. I’m a woman without a party,” Ms. Pennypacker said.
The Republican chairman in Ms. Pennypacker’s home county of Maricopa said she doesn’t represent anyone in the Republican Party, except maybe those who are really Democrats.
“All her issues are Democratic issues,” county GOP chairman Rob Haney said. “We have a number of people who are registered Republicans, or claim to be Republicans, who are not. They are actually Democrats in disguise.
“She’s been here for years and every time she comes out with an issue it’s kind of nonsense and no one pays attention to it,” Mr. Haney said. ”I don’t read her column or blog. It’s a lot of left-wing rhetoric that we are subject to all the time.”
He disagreed that the Arizona Republican Party is controlled by the right wing, saying they’re just conservatives who support the Republican Party platform and the Constitution.
“We wish we could get some more conservative legislators in the legislature and Senate,” Mr. Haney said.
Ms. Pennypacker moved to Arizona in 1998 with her husband, Duane Abbajay, where she has a business selling beauty products, Just For Redheads. She said her husband survived brain cancer two years ago and they have a 12-year-old son, Frazier Abbajay.
She said she re-engaged with politics when she ran in the Republican primary for a state legislative seat in 2010, coming in third in a field of six. She said the top two finishers were the most conservative of the group. Ms. Pennypacker said she was offended by the “slimy political operatives” who were behind the most right-wing candidates.
She also said she made enemies in the Republican Party by criticizing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for his tactics in confronting illegal Mexican immigrants.
“It’ll be the first time I’ve ever voted for a Democrat for president since I registered to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 after graduating from the University of Toledo,” Ms. Pennypacker said.
She said she considers herself a fiscal conservative and a moderate on social issues.
“This is not what the Tea Party was supposed to be. The Tea Party was totally hijacked by the far right,” Ms. Pennypacker said.
“What does repeal and replace mean?” she said, referring to what Republicans say they plan to do with the Affordable Care Act if they are elected. “There’s parts of Obamacare I really like. [My husband] had brain cancer. You think I want to go shopping for insurance with some kind of voucher? That’s a pre-exising condition.”
The former Owens-Illinois Inc. employee was in Toledo last weekend to visit Mr. Abbajay’s father, Duane Abbajay, Sr.
She ran for Toledo council in 1989 and for mayor in 1991 and 1993, finishing fifth that year in a field of eight candidates in the primary election. Democrat Carty Finkbeiner eventually won the office. Ms Pennypacker is still in contact with Mr. Finkbeiner who, she said, encouraged her political career.