JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- An Iraq War veteran campaigning for Congress in eastern North Carolina against U.S. Rep. Walter Jones has changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat, saying the tea party has made the GOP too extreme.

In a statement on his website, former U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Thigpen said the recent federal government shutdown triggered his switch. He said the GOP is now dominated by an “extremist movement” that “only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line.”

Thigpen said he wouldn’t change any of his policy positions, including stanch support for gun rights.

Such a switch is not unprecedented. Third District incumbent Jones pulled off the reverse move in 1994, becoming a Republican after losing a Democratic primary two years earlier.