MARION, Va. (WJHL) — The sheriff of Smyth County has decided to switch political parties in response to what he calls a “relentless attack on law enforcement by Democrats.”

Sheriff Chip Shuler, who was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 as a Democrat, filed a membership application Monday to join the Republican Party. His application was unanimously approved by the Smyth County Republican Committee.

“I am changing to the Republican Party because of the relentless attack on law enforcement by Democrats in Richmond and Washington,” Shuler said in a release. “My deputies work hard to serve and protect the citizens of Smyth County. As sheriff, it has been difficult to watch my deputies try to move forward during this unprecedented assault on our profession. We (law enforcement) remain an honorable profession and should not be judged by the bad acts of a few. I have always been a conservative throughout my law enforcement career of 38 years.”

The chairman of the Smyth County Republican Party, Adam Tolbert, said he welcomes the sheriff to the GOP.

“I congratulate Sheriff Shuler on taking this bold move to leave the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party,” Tolbert said. “We are thrilled to have him as a member of the Republican Party in Smyth County.”

Tolbert said Shuler is the third sheriff in Southwest Virginia to recently leave the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party. He said Sheriff Brian Hieatt of Tazewell County and Sheriff John McClanahan of Buchanan County made their moves in 2020.