Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward, who lost the August Democratic primary to Catherine Vogel, has switched his affiliation, becoming a Republican on Sept. 6.
"I really don't want to be part of a party that supports public corruption," Ward said this week.
Countywide, Vogel defeated Ward 52.76 percent to 47.24 percent. In Key West, where Ward's office has prosecuted several members of well-known and connected families for a variety of offenses, Vogel defeated him by 484 votes, which many people say swung the election.
Ward blames the close-knit Conch community for getting out the vote for Vogel to punish him.
"I just find it distasteful to be a member of the party that won't prosecute public corruption," he added. "There are a lot of good Democrats.... There is a different standard for people who have money or stature," he said.
He cited longtime Key West names like Morgan, Toppino, Bethel, Acevedo and Spoto — all families with at least one member prosecuted since Ward was elected in 2008.
"The majority of Democrats in Key West clearly state they don't want good government," Ward said.
Phil Schaeffer, chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Executive Committee, said he appreciates Ward's past support but views his comments as inappropriate.
"I think it's unfortunate because Dennis was already engaged and very supportive in our party, probably more than any other official," Schaeffer said. "He ought to probably limit his response ... rather than paint everyone with the same brush."
On Nov. 6, Vogel faces Republican Mark Kohl in the general election. Vogel had been Kohl's top assistant before Ward defeated the incumbent nearly four years ago.
So whose name will Ward fill in on the ballot?
"I'm not going to vote for either one," he said. "They'll probably both end up working together anyway," referring to the belief by many that whoever wins will hire his or her former colleague.