Mitchell Howie Makes The Move-- A Progressive Challenger For Congress
My district's Representative is 76 and ailing... and retiring. McCain only got 12% of the vote around here-- although that must have come from some other part of the district. Republicans don't bother to run serious campaigns here; the Democratic primary is virtually the election. In 2008 Diane Watson took 88% of the vote. In 2006 and 2004 the GOP hadn't bothered trying. Last night she endorsed 100%-- maybe 300% Karen Bass to follow her. Bass was Speaker of the state Assembly. I'm sure she'll make a decent enough congresswoman; all my friends who know her tell me she's very sharp and very progressive.
Now, in Northern Alabama the electoral dynamic is very, very different. Congress' worst Blue Dog, Parker Griffith, after spending the year voting with the GOP more often than not, finally jumped the fence and came out as a Republican three days before Christmas-- a real lump of coal for northern Alabama... and Democrats nationwide. Progressives, on the other hand, were hardly fazed. We were very much aware that Griffith voted against health care reform and clean energy. He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which was named for a woman from his state. He even went so far as to promise a vote against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker and implied she should be committed. On the 22nd of December, Griffith made his love for Republican ideology official and cast his lot with the GOP.
In the competition to ensure that Parker Griffith is no longer employed, North Alabama has now been presented with three Democratic candidates who will face one another in a June 1st primary. Taze Shephard was elected to the Alabama Board of Education in the early 90’s, but his biggest claim to fame is being the grandson of segregationist Alabama Senator John Sparkman. When I called his office after he announced, it was as cold as a Republican's and they told me they'd get back to me; they haven't. Conservatives never do. Also in the race is longtime political consultant and former lobbyist Steve Raby. Aside from Raby’s establishment credentials (he has gone so far as to acknowledge that he is the “establishment candidate"), he’s got a rather peculiar donor history, which I worked with the folks at Left in Alabama to spotlight.
[H]e's given lot's of money to Repubs. Opensecrets shows that since 1996 Stephen Raby has contributed $33,950 to Republican causes and $73,950 to Democratic causes. He has contributed to both the State Democratic Executive Committee of Alabama and the Republican Party of Alabama. In the 2008 cycle he contributed to both Mike Rogers, R ($2,000) and Josh Segall, D ($500 $1,000*) in the AL-03 contest. He not only contributed to all the Republican Senators and Representatives from Alabama, but to the likes of Duncan Hunter, Curt Weldon, Lisa Murkowski and Kit Bond. Raby's last Republican contribution was $2,300 to Richard Shelby in 2008.
Judging from the first two candidates in the field, we can see how Alabama’s Fifth District got stuck with a turncoat like Parker Griffith. Luckily, there is a better option.
Wednesday, Huntsville Attorney Mitchell Howie filed qualifying papers to get on the ballot. Here is a video of him addressing the Madison County Democratic Executive Committee last week:
Howie’s grandfather was a doctor in Huntsville during the civil rights struggle and had one of the first integrated waiting rooms in the area, where black and white children, who were treated regardless of whether or not their parents could afford the care, played together openly. Howie’s grandparents also often posted bail for civil rights protesters arrested in sit-ins, resulting in death threats for the family at the time.
After law school in Houston, a stint on a Democratic legislator's staff in the Texas State House, and five years of active duty service in the United States Air Force, Mitchell Howie returned to Huntsville to start his own law practice. One idea he has proposed in his campaign is the establishment of a Green TVA. Stating that the Tennessee Valley Authority revolutionized North Alabama in the New Deal era, Howie believes that similar efforts should be undertaken to develop clean energy technology in North Alabama. Doing so, he hopes, will bring jobs to the district and create innovative technologies that will benefit the country as a whole. For a Southern Democrat and economic populist, Howie takes some fairly progressive positions such as being pro-choice (he says he personally is against abortion, but doesn’t think that government should have a say in decisions between a patient and her doctor), in favor of health care reform, and staunchly supporting a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."
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