Frank Conaway Sr. campaigns during his 2011 race for Baltimore mayor.
Frank Conaway Sr. campaigns during his 2011 race for Baltimore mayor. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore's longtime Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr. on Thursday announced he was switching parties to become the city's first Republican to hold office since the 1960s.

Conaway, 81, has been elected to his post five times as a Democrat. In 2011, he ran as a Democrat for mayor, finishing fifth of six candidates in an election won by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.


In a news release Thursday, he accused the Democratic party of turning its back on him.

"All they have ever shown me and my family was a cold shoulder and the door," Conaway said in a statement. "So I have decided to switch political affiliations and work with the Republican Party of Maryland in pushing a progressive agenda in order to help uplift the communities of Baltimore."

The release also refers to Conaway, a former state delegate in the 1970s and 1980s, as the "godfather of black politics in Baltimore."

He said changing parties allows him to "begin to address the issues affecting our communities with the Governor-elect [Larry Hogan]; and tell him what he needs to hear, not whisper sweat [sic] nothings in his ear that end up not benefiting anyone but the elected officials themselves."

Conaway is the father of State Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. and newly elected city Register of Wills Belinda Conaway, both of whom are Democrats. The news release says they did not embrace their father's decision to switch parties.

Maryland GOP chairwoman Diana Waterman welcomed Conaway to the party.

"For way too long, Baltimore City has not been represented by any Republicans," she said in a statement. "I am very happy to welcome Baltimore City Clerk of the Court Frank Conaway, Sr. to our Party and look forward to working with him in building the Party in Baltimore City."