WAGENER — Aiken County Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said she didn't leave the Democratic Party, but the party left her, after an announcement she would be switching party lines on Monday.

In front of a small crowd at Wagener Town Hall, Rawls, who represents District 1, said she has always been a “fiscal conservative,” therefore running on the Republican ticket shouldn't change her beliefs or how she votes.

“I have never voted a straight-party ticket,” Rawls said. “I have voted in the Republican primary several times. I voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 primary because I thought our country needed a leader like him to pull us back in line. I have supported other Republicans over the years.”

Rawls was joined by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken; County Republican Party Chairman K.T. Ruthven; Sunny O'Donovan and Chairman for the S.C. Republican Party Matt Moore.

Wilson congratulated Rawls on what he called a “courageous decision.”

“We want to welcome you,” Wilson said. “What this is is a continuation, a competition, in our country between big government and limited government – limited government works. Kathy has served since 1988, and I'm really proud of you for standing for limited government.”

Rawls held the District 1 seat from 1988 to 1994, and won the seat again in a special election in 1997.

As a longtime member of the County's Democratic Party, Chairman Harold A. Crawford said Rawls' voting style has aligned with more conservative thinking than one would expect of a traditional Democrat.

“It is unfortunate that she feels that she can be more effective as a member of the Republican Party,” Crawford said. “We disagree, and we believe that the constituents in her district will not be adequately represented with her switch to the Republican Party.”

Despite the party change, Rawls said she is the same person and won't vote any differently than she has in the past.

“I've wanted to announce this for a long time, and I've voted my beliefs and what is the best for the people,” Rawls said. “I never let anyone or party change me from voting that way.”

Rawls's seat on County Council expires Dec. 31 and while she may go up against some notable Conservatives, Rawls said changing party lines has nothing to do with political gain.

“Our County Council has always been very conservative,” Rawls said. “We watch the pennies, and we work together really well. We're not so contentious like on the state or federal level. There aren't and will not be any change despite party changes.”

Maayan Schechter is the City reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.