The Senate now has one more Republican.
Democratic Sen. Carlyle Begay of Arizona has often voted conservative, but the senator officially joined the GOP on Nov. 23, AZ Central reports.
While it may not surprise many that the right-leaning senator now calls himself a Republican, it does open up the door for Native American voters to follow the Navajo senator by aligning their votes with his party.
Begay said that the Republican Party better demonstrates the values of self-determination and self-empowerment that he hopes will translate to his district, which includes Navajo and Hopi reservations.
"I want to help the Republican Party build a bridge with those who need and want a chance with those who can provide that chance," Begay told reporters at a packed news conference attended by U.S. senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, GOP Chairman Robert Graham, Senate President Andy Biggs and more than half of the GOP Senate caucus, according to AZ Central.
After he gave the crucial 16th vote to pass the current-year budget through the 30-member Senate, the former Democrat said that he felt increasingly alienated.
"I was being isolated because I was fighting for people to have a voice," Begay said, adding that he always votes for what he believes is right for his constituents, regardless of political party.
Even so, he decided to register as a Republican rather than an independent because he hopes to reinforce what he called the GOP's message of self-determination, a concept that tribes are currently trying to emphasize to the state and federal governments.
The Democrats were largely indifferent to officially losing the conservative Congressman, but Republicans welcomed him with open arms.
"I'm proud to welcome Senator Begay to the Republican Party," Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement on his official website. " Legislative District 7 is well served by Senator Begay’s commitment to individual liberty, fiscal responsibility and personal empowerment. His service to his constituents is unwavering, and I look forward to our continued work together."