DianaUrbanChristine Stuart photo
A Republican since she registered to vote an estimated 35 years ago, state Rep. Diana Urban of North Stonington announced Tuesday that she was leaving the GOP for greener Democratic pastures. A self-described “maverick”, Urban said she would not be changing her values or principles in order to cross the aisle and would be willing to return any campaign contributions to constituents who may feel misled by her party swap. Urban said the decision to cross the aisle evolved over a period of time, but Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he was somewhat surprised when he received her call at 8:30 p.m. Monday night.

Cafero said he was surprised because Urban had “unequivocally” said she would maintain her party affiliation this past summer after the GOP decided not to nominate her for Cathy Cook’s vacated Senate seat, then again when she launched her independent bid as a petitioning candidate for U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat. Click here for the story on her U.S. Senate bid.Cafero said he was personally surprised because he sat down with Urban about a week ago to discuss her role on the GOP team and said she gave no indication at that time that she may be considering leaving the party. While it’s no secret Urban was left-of-center on the political spectrum, Cafero said he was still surprised because “in any party we have people at one end of the spectrum or another, but its about working as a team.” And Urban was not a team player, Cafero said. Cafero admitted that the GOP’s personal, political, and social relationship with Urban has been strained for a long time. Majority Leader Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said Urban works hard for her district and will work with Democrats to get the job done. Urban said the Democratic caucus unlike the GOP was “willing to listen to my voice.” The Republicans quickly removed Urban’s web site page from its site. Cafero said that’s because they don’t want to convey in accurate information.Speaker of the House James Amann, D-Milford, who welcomed Urban into the caucus Tuesday said she was not promised a position on any committee, however, he said he will not treat her like a freshman legislator. Amann said Urban wasn’t the only Republican to come to him over the last two years and express interest in joining the Democratic caucus. Amann said two other Republicans were interested in switching parties, but never followed through. He said he was not going to say who those legislators were. None of the legislators or staff members from either caucus could ever remember a legislator switching parties in the past.