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Year marks return of white, male Democrat

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
On paper there is absolutely no reason Alabama’s Second Congressional District should be in play. President George Bush won this southeast Alabama district by 34 percentage points in 2004. Yet this week, on the eve of the primary election, polls I have seen show Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, a Democrat, leading, not only all his Democratic opponents, but also all the Republican candidates in head-to-head match-ups.
Three special Congressional elections this year in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi where white, male Democratic candidates scored stunning upsets, has changed the landscape in Congressional politics.
The win last week of such a Democrat in a special election in a northern Mississippi district has dramatically altered the handicapping of House of Representatives races, particularly in the South. According to many Washington pundits it will be hard to minimize the cumulative impact of three straight special elections victories by Democrats in GOP held districts. The wins came in districts that President Bush won with 55 percent in Illinois, 59 percent in Louisiana and 62 percent in Mississippi.
Travis Childers, a chancery clerk, won 54 percent of the vote in the Mississippi district that stretches across the top of the Magnolia State. He did it by stressing, what I call the “three pros,” pro-gun, pro-life and pro-God. Bright, the popular Capital City mayor is certainly not blind to that theme. “I’m pro-life, pro-gun, pro-prayer and for low taxes,” he said last week.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has targeted both the 2nd District and the 5th District, which stretches across the northern part of the state, for victories in Alabama. The fifth district is also and open race, due to the retirement of Congressman Bud Cramer, a Democrat. The second district seat came open when longtime GOP Rep. Terry Everett, announced he would not seek re-election.
Coupled with the recent victories and starting the campaign season with 44 million in cash at the DCCC vs. its GOP counterpart’s 7 million, the political odds-makers are predicting the Democrats could roll to double-digit gains in the House, perhaps as many as 20 seats. Currently Democrats hold 236 seats to 199 for the Republicans.
Alabama Democratic Party Chair Joe Turnham is, not surprised at the turn of events for the Democrats nationally, says that history shows that in difficult times the country frequently turns to the Democratic Party for solutions. “We are now in difficult times for working people, white and blue collar alike,” he said.
State GOP Chair Mike Hubbard, however, doesn’t think Alabama voters are ready to give Democrats another seat in Congress. “Nationally the party obviously has some problems, but I don’t think those translate in Alabama and especially not in the 2nd District, where I think our nominee will run hard and run well,” Hubbard said. “Remember, these wins by the Democrat Party have come in special elections where voters didn’t have the time they will have in a general election to sort through who these candidates are and where they stand. When they do, I think we’ll be fine,” he told The Birmingham News.
Bright is the odds-on favorite to become the Democratic nominee in the second district, but there is a heavily-contested race among Republicans. In the latest campaign reports I found, State Rep. Jay Love leads in fund-raising with $567,166 (300,000-self financing). He is followed closely by State Sen. Harri Anne Smith with $459,626 ($18,098-self financing), Montgomery broadcast executive David Woods with $385,969 ($250,000-self financing), Dothan physician Craig Schmidtke with $274,078 (227,855-self financing), State Rep. David Grimes with $16,250, and John Martin with $10,425. I am told Rep. Grimes’ latest report has not been received.
On the Democratic side, Bright has so far raised $212,161($100-self financing), and Cheryl T. Sabel, $12,425($1,000-self financing).
In the 5th District reports through April 1 show the odds-on favorite to win the GOP Primary, Wayne Parker, had raised $177,299. The only other Republican candidate to show contributions by that time was Ray McKee, who had raised $67,051, with 81 percent of that self financed. There were no reports for the other GOP candidates, Cheryl Guthrie, George Barry, Mark Huff, and Angelo Mancuso. Parker twice ran unsuccessful races against Rep. Cramer.
On the Democratic side, State Sen. Parker Griffith had raised $115,449 through March. The only other Democrat on the ballot, David Joel Maker, had not reported any contributions.
Of the remaining members of the Alabama delegation, only Mike Rogers in the 3rd District has any significant opposition. Montgomery attorney Joshua Segall, a Democrat, has raised $272,888 in his challenge to Rogers. However, the incumbent Republican has a significant war chest and has raised $711,318 so far in this campaign.
In the 1st District Rep. Jo Bonner has raised over a half-million dollars and doesn’t have a serious challenger. The lone Democratic candidate is Benjamin Lodmere. The same goes for 4th District GOP incumbent Robert Aderholt, who has collected near $400,000 in contributions so far even though he has no opposition in the primary. Two Democrats, Greg Warren and Nickolas Sparks are vying for the nomination of their party.
Neither 7th.District Rep. Artur Davis, a Democrat, nor the 6th. District’s Spencer Bachus, a Republican, have any opposition.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

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