BREVARD, N.C. (AP) — The majority on an all-Republican western North Carolina county commission are now registered unaffiliateds because three have announced they’ve left the GOP.

Transylvania County commission Chairman Mike Hawkins, Vice Chairman David Guice and member Page Lemel announced their decision this week. Two of the five commissioners remain registered Republicans. Guice is a former state legislator who later became a top prison system leader.

The three didn’t cite a particular incident leading to their decision. They told The Transylvania Times they’re leaving the party because “to be conservative is to have a strong moral compass and the willingness to challenge wrong regardless of its source.” They also said elected officials have a “special duty to conduct themselves beyond reproach,” and that local government shouldn’t be partisan in nature.

Donald Trump won handily the 2016 presidential vote in Transylvania County, where registered unaffiliateds are the largest voting bloc.

The three said in a prepared statement that this “is not an action we do happily, and it is not a choice we take lightly.”

The seats of Hawkins and Lemel are up for reelection in 2020. Candidate filing ends Dec. 20. If they run again, they’ll have to meet signature collection requirements to appear on the ballot.

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