DOLAN SPRINGS - No one is calling it a mass exodus, but it smacks of the proverbial rats deserting a sinking ship.
There's a migration underway from the Republican Party to other political affiliations. The reason: disenchantment with party leadership.
Norty Turchen of Dolan Springs, one of the two Democratic candidates for Mohave County Supervisor in District 1, has been hosting a non-partisan voter registration effort at his wife, Judy's, business, Tacky Stuf 4 Horses, centrally located on Pierce Ferry Road in Dolan Springs.
"We haven't put up any signs supporting the Democratic Party. We've just been trying to get people to register to vote," Turchen said. "It's been entirely non-partisan. Last weekend, we saw the strangest things happening."
Some are re-registering new addresses with their same parties after moving. Nothing strange about that.
What did strike Turchen as peculiar is that others were the elderly, signing up to vote for the very first time in their lives.
"It's amazing. Here are these old people, even older than me, who never felt the need to vote before," Turchen said.
"Now, they're so discouraged at the way our country is being run that they're coming out to register so they can cast their vote. They want to see some big changes made."
And equally notable were a good number of Republicans who were changing their party affiliation to what some almost consider the enemy camp - the Democrats.
"We had seven Republicans come in on Saturday to tell us they're fed up with that party's leadership and they're changing over to the Democratic Party," Turchen said.
A call to Oatman Precinct 26 Republican Precinctman Val Starr of Golden Valley confirmed Turchen's observations: Republicans are leaving the party in numbers unseen by the party in the past.
"There's been a trickle of people leaving the Republican Party going on for a while now," Starr said. "A lot of old Republicans are becoming Independents or joining the Constitution Party. A few are even becoming Democrats."
Starr also is a member of the Republican Central Committee. Republicans are still signing on new recruits at a brisk pace, but not enough to offset the loss of the old guard, he said.
"Still, we outnumber the others," he said.
"The reason people are leaving the Republican Party is that they don't like the leadership in Washington, D.C.," Starr said.
"It has consistently been a problem since 2002. The party has discussed what to do about the leadership. The Advisory Council has discussed what to do about the leadership. The problem is that too many Republicans believe in the 'old boy' network.
"They're not listening to the voters," he said.
"We're trying hard to fix it, but that can't be done with political advertising. We have to have new leadership.
"The trouble started in 2002, when the orders started coming down from the top instead of coming from the bottom up."
The Republicans in power have paid lip service to correcting the problem, but they haven't done anything to fix it, he said.
There is a strong grass-roots movement to initiate substantial change in the Republican Party, "but whether those voices are being heard in D.C. is another question," Starr said.
"I know the party will be angry with me for telling you all of these things, but they're the truth, and you can't fix a problem by pretending it doesn't exist."
He said new Republican leadership in Phoenix seems to be listening, but he remains a bit skeptical.
"We'll see," he said.
Starr is of the opinion that both Republican and Democratic parties have "systemic problems."
"The people in both parties are feeling disenfranchised," he said.
"They're jumping ship and heading to the Independent and Constitution parties. But for the time being, we Republicans still outnumber the Democrats."
The grand old party badly needs an infusion of fresh new blood, Starr said.
"We need more energy, more enthusiasm, new young people and a new, better ad campaign.
"Nobody likes to watch political commercials. They're boring. And if nobody is watching them, we're wasting a lot of money and air time."