Monday, December 28, 2009

If Alabama turncoat Rep. Parker Griffith makes it to the GOP nomination, he may face a formidable Dem challenger in Ron Sparks


by Ken

Howie has been tracking the stone's-throw journey of first-term Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith in AL-05 -- from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party to the Confederate heart of the Republican Party, where it appears he's running into a formidable obstacle in the form of a ready-and-waiting R candidate for his seat, Mo Brooks.

Now, as Jonathan Martin reports in Politico, it appears that State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, whom Howie wrote about in 2007 as "a fiery populist" -- with stirring quotes to back this up -- "who could ignite sparks" in a potential Senate race, which never materialized, could become a factor. Sparks, who has strong North Alabama roots, has been targeting the Democratic gubernatorial primary against lackluster Rep. Artur Davis, but is now being lobbied personally by DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen to seek the Dem nomination in his political stronghold.
“He’s a great fit for the district,” said a senior House Democratic aide, noting that the party also urged Sparks to run for the seat last year, when the seat became open following the retirement of Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer.

Justin Saia, Sparks’ campaign manager, would only say that the commissioner is “open to entertaining other options” -- but then made the case for why his candidate would be formidable in the congressional campaign.

“He has won every county in the 5th twice,” Saia said, noting Sparks’ roots in north Alabama.

Martin also notes:
If Sparks were to jump into the House race, Alabama Democrats could avoid a gubernatorial primary that is already dividing the party and threatens to hamper their chance to reclaim the governor’s mansion after eight years of Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who is term-limited.

And it may present state and national Democrats with their best hope for exacting revenge on Griffith, who took their cash in 2008 only to slam the party a year later in announcing his switch.

“[Sparks] is north Alabama to his bone marrow even though he lives adjacent to the actual 5th,” said a veteran Alabama Democrat. “The folks in the 5th love him and his announcement would silence all other [Democratic] challengers because they know it's Sparks in a walk.”

Perhaps more noteworthy than the news itself (although Sparks certainly sounds like an upgrade over Griffith) is that it's reported so Dem-sympathetically in Politico, which usually manages to find the storm cloud in any Dem news and the silver lining in all things GOP. Is it possible that Parker Griffith is so unpopular that even Politico is titillated by the possibility of his former party having its "revenge" on him?

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