Friday, November 01, 2013

Alabama Reactionaries Bobby Bright And Parker Griffith Reemerging From Their Holes?


Unless you're from Montgomery, Alabama, I wouldn't blame you if you can't remember who Bobby Bright was. As Mayor of Montgomery, Bright never had to say if he was a Democrat or a Republican. But when Republican Terry Everett announced he would not run for reelection in AL-02, a seat that had been in GOP hands for over 4 decades, Bright avoided the crowded GOP primary by running as a Democrat, albeit as gay-hating, anti-Choice NRA Blue Dog. He won the general election by 1,776 votes (just over a half of one percent). He then went on to accrue the worst voting record of any Blue Dog in Congress and voted with the Republicans virtually always. Blue America took a lot of incoming from Democrats because we worked hard to defeat him. (More about that below.) This week, he announced he's BACK-- as a Republican.
Bobby Bright has disappeared from the public eye ever since he lost his re-election bid to Congress three years ago. But after serving in city hall and on Capitol Hill, he may want to come to the Alabama State House… [H]e says he is interested in serving the people.

…Bright says if he runs, he'll switch to the Republican Party. That would put him in a primary battle against at least two people. One is Harris Garner, who owns Garner Electric in Millbrook. He says he's the best candidate... with or without Bright in the race… Another candidate is Suzelle Josey, a former spokesperson for Chief Justice Roy Moore. She wants to be the missing voice in the state senate, which has no republican women.
Before Bright even started running his 2010 reactionary campaign ads, he had already marked himself out as the single most right-wing Democrat in the House. His ProgressivePunch score-- a dismal 19.83 (out of 100)-- was not just the lowest Democrat's score; it's also lower than two conservative Republicans'! Bright had consistently shown his fealty to Boehner on every single contentious issue that came before Congress in his single term. In fact, when SCHIP came up for it's final vote only two Democrats crossed the aisle to vote against health care for needy children and Bright, of course, was one of the two. He has been sure to noisily vote against a woman's right to Choice (and, like Christine O'Donnell, he's even been against contraception), against equality for the LGBT community, against health care reform, against Wall Street reform, against energy legislation... You name it-- if Barack Obama was for it, Bobby Bright was against it. And that was the theme of his reelection campaign.

Bright's ads and campaign statements targeted and demonized Nancy Pelosi, while building up... John Boehner. He flat-out declared he wouldn't vote for her as Speaker, the bare minimum Democrats have always required of their candidates. But that didn't stop the clods at the DCCC from spending more on Bright than on any other Democratic incumbent-- enough money to have shored up the shaky seats of real Democrats like Alan Grayson, John Hall, Mary Jo Kilroy and Carol Shea Porter who unjustly lost their seats in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse that flushed Bright down the toilet. The DCCC continued spending on him, even though it was widely assumed in Washington that Bright would jump the fence if the Democrats lost the majority so he could officially be what he already was unofficially: a conservative Republican.

So here's where Blue America came in and why so many professional Democrats got angry with us. The stupid, incompetent Republicans hadn't figured out how to beat Bright. They were busy calling him a Nancy Pelosi pawn in the white suburbs of Montgomery, where he-- and his conservative politics-- were quite popular. So Blue America decided to point out his record to some of Bright's other constituents. We began a massive, targeted radio and TV campaign in just 4 counties, the 4 counties where Barack Obama did best in 2008, the 4 counties most badly effected by Bright's anti-family votes, the 4 counties that make it hard for a Democrat to win district-wide without landslide victories: Lowndes, Bullock, Barbour and Butler. When the African-American precincts in and around Montgomery were gerrymandered into the 3rd CD, the 2nd was left as a hopeless Republican bastion. It's a freak of nature that even a throwback Democrat as far to the right as Bright could have ever won the seat. He won it 144,368-142,578... but with massive support from the African-American voters in Lowndes, Bullock, Barbour and Butler counties, voters whose interests he consistently ignored from the moment he was elected. Obama only won 36% of the vote in Alabama's 2nd CD but he won landslides in Lowndes County (5,447 to 1,807) and Bullock County (4,001 to 1,389) and ties in Butler and Barbour counties. This is the radio ad some local actors made for us:

Like I said, not everyone thought it was sage to help defeat a Democrat in a perilous election. "But what exactly," I asked at the time, "does Bobby Bright bring to the table? What good would saving his seat do? He's already announced he won't vote for Pelosi (which means he won't vote to organize the House for the Democrats). He votes with the GOP on every contentious issue. He works within the Democratic caucus to destroy or water down every single piece of progressive legislation he can get his hands on. And he denigrates the Democratic brand with his framing, making it seem toxic to even be a Democrat… When Democrats passed the DISCLOSE Act in the House, to stop the flow of foreign money into American elections, something they knew would be a boon for the GOP and a disaster for Democrats, Bright was one of the Blue Dogs to cross the aisle and vote with the Republicans. He is one of only five Democrats who has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the funnel for millions of yuan, dinars and rubles being used to pervert our country's political system.

Oh, and speaking of Bobby Bright, another scummy Alabama Blue Dog who jumped the fence, Parker Griffith, actually ran for reelection as a Republican and was defeated in the GOP primary. Now he may be about to run for his old seat again, this time as an independent.

"I do not regret changing parties, (but) I think politically it may have been a mistake," Griffith said the morning after his defeat. "On principle, it was the right thing to do, and I'm happy about it."

He tried to reclaim to 5th District seat from Brooks in 2012 but fared even worse, despite pumping more than $500,000 of his own money into the campaign.

Earlier this month, Griffith told WHNT that he now considers himself an independent. "I've been on both parties, I've seen them up close and personal," he said. "Neither one of them are worth a damn. I'm an independent."

Independent and third-party candidates have had limited success in Alabama, and the 3 percent signature requirement is one of the highest thresholds in the nation. According to the Secretary of State's office, Griffith would have to collect signatures from at least 6,858 voters who live in the 5th Congressional District and cast a ballot for governor in the 2010 general election.
Are there still Democrats in the House today as bad as Bobby Bright and Parker Griffth were back then? Blue Dogs John Barrow (GA), Jim Matheson (UT), Dan Lipinski (IL) and Mike McIntyre (NC) are in the same league. And several of the New Dem freshmen, like-- from bad to worse-- Patrick Murphy (FL), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Bill Owens (NY), Pete Gallego (TX), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY) and Ron Barber (AZ), are just about there.

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