Meet the newest member of the GOP: former Governor King

Political party-jumping has brought another prominent Democrat -- the third in the last month -- into Republican ranks. Edward J. King, the conservative former governor of Massachusetts, whose comeback hopes have been no secret, officially switched his affiliation to the GOP Monday.

Similar shifts to the GOP have occurred recently on other levels of government in other states.

The new Republicans range from Kent Hance, a former three-term congressman from west Texas, to William Lucas, an administrator in Wayne County, Mich.

Mr. Hance's move follows his loss last year in his race against Phil Gramm for the US Senate. Senator Gramm had himself been a Democratic member of the US House, but joined the GOP in 1983, before running for the Senate.

The switchers say they've become disenchanted with the direction of the Democratic Party. They view the Republican Party as ``the way of the future,'' according to Mr. King.

GOP leaders such as Daniel Needham, a Massachusetts member of the Republican National Committee (RNC), say they are optimistic that many registered Democrats will change their party enrollment in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, a major 100-day campaign to sign up a hoped-for 100,000 new registered voters for the GOP, including a substantial number of Democratic defectors, was launched last month by the RNC.

King's party switch could pave the way for a third gubernatorial rematch with Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, a liberal-to-moderate Democrat. King unseated Governor Dukakis in the 1978 Democratic primary; the loser in turn ousted King in the 1982 primary.

King appeared to have a slim chance of wresting the Democratic nomination from Dukakis again, and that fact contributed to King's decision to change parties. King, now in the real estate investment business, had been urged to join the GOP by several prominent Massachusetts Republicans.

His party switch came within hours of the deadline for eligibility to run for state office next year in a different party.

The former Massachusetts chief executive and longtime fan of President Reagan was once termed by the latter as his ``favorite Democratic governor.''

Several former King aides had already switched parties.

Aside from King, the state's best-known Democrat to abandon the party is Edward F. Harrington, a former US district attorney in Boston, who moved to the GOP a year ago. He is expected to seek the Republican nomination for state attorney general.

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