OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine switched to the Republican Party after facing criticism related to the James Scurlock case.
Kleine defended himself after the Nebraska Democratic Party claimed he perpetuated white supremacy and sparked division in his handling of the Scurlock case.
"I want to be a part of a part of an organization that’s optimistic, energetic, wants to get things done, wants to build a more perfect union, as I said with liberty and justice for all. That’s why I’m here," Kleine said Wednesday at a press conference.
Ja Keen Fox, a local activist, claimed Kleine's decision to not charge Jake Gardner in the killing of Scurlock was racist.
Kleine said his decisions in the case were based on law and evidence, adding Fox has a history of hateful rhetoric toward law enforcement.
"I’ve always denounced anything to do with racism, particularly white supremacy and to say that I somehow promote that or perpetuate that is just beyond belief,” said Kleine previously.
Fox has called on Kleine to leave the Democratic Party in the past, saying Kleine "needs to be somewhere that more accurately reflects his racism and white supremacy.”
“Because of that type of rhetoric and that kind of nonsense, there are a lot of people who have been lifelong Democrats that are really seriously considering making a change,” Kleine said previously.
Kleine said to politicize the decision and his office was wrong.
"That resolution that Nebraska, the central committee of the Democratic Committee passed, was something that was very vile. It was very hurtful to me, as a person, it was something that I couldn’t believe had happened," Kleine said.
The resolution was the tipping point in Kleine's decision to switch his party affiliation. He said this decision has been a long time coming.
"Maybe that was the catalyst. I’ve thought about it for a long time. There are a lot of reasons why I have problems with the party I came from and some of the standards they have, the litmus test about abortion anymore," Kleine said.
Kleine said his new party affiliation will not alter how he does his job.
Republican officials said at a Wednesday press conference that the comments by the Democratic Party calling Kleine a racist and saying he perpetuates white supremacy were wrong. They stand against racism and say throwing that word out cheapens its meaning.
"We want people of value, who have core values. We need people like Don Kleine as county attorney," said Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican.
“I changed my party affiliation and that’s a done deal. I didn’t change who Don Kleine is. You get what you get with me. That’s how I am and that’s how I’ll continue to be," Kleine said at Wednesday's press conference.
Kleine said he intends to run again for county attorney and will run as a Republican.
“I’m very proud to be American, I’m very proud to be a Nebraskan and I’m very proud to be a member of the Republican Party," Kleine said.
Kleine said those from the Democratic Party who have supported him didn’t make much difference in his opinion. While he appreciated their kind words his mind was made up.