Granville County Sheriff Charles Noblin Jr. has switched his political affiliation to Republican.
“As incumbent sheriff, I cannot in good conscious run as a Democrat in the 2022 Sheriff election,” Noblin said in a news release on Facebook. “My fellow citizens, I, along with many others feel that I did not leave the Democrat party. The Democrat party left me.”
His decision to leave has “lifted a long time burden,” he said, adding he will continue to lead the department with “honesty and integrity.”
Noblin was appointed as sheriff in January 2020 after former Sheriff Brindell Wilkins Jr. was indicted in 2019. Wilkins, a Democrat, was charged with two counts of felony obstruction of justice. He faced allegations that he discussed killing a former deputy who had a recording of him using “racially insensitive language,” The News & Observer reported.
His decision will prompt the county’s first Republican primary for the law enforcement seat, according to the local Republican Party. Rob Morris announced in April his intention to run for sheriff as a Republican.
Granville County was one of a handful of counties in North Carolina to flip from blue to red in the 2016 presidential race. And, in 2020, Granville was one of four counties to back former President Donald Trump, a Republican, and NC Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
“With Noblin’s politically seismic change, the Granville County Republican Party anticipates other sitting Democrat elected officials to follow his lead and change to the Republican Party,” said Chad McHenry, chair of the Granville County Republican Party. “These changes will shift the dynamics of Granville County elections and politics for generations to come.”
Granville is a conservative county, McHenry said, but Democrats have maintained control of the sheriff’s seat. People register as Democrats to have a say in the local race, McHenry said in an interview. If there are more options more people will feel comfortable switching parties, he said.
In North Carolina, people registered as members of a party cannot vote in another party’s primary election. Unaffiliated voters can vote in any primary.
A phone call and email to the Granville County Democratic chair was not returned as of Sunday afternoon.