Monday, April 19, 2010

Winning A Congressional Seat In Alabama


Thursday night, before flying back to try to shore up his crumbling political fortunes in North Alabama, ex-Blue Dog-turned Republican Parker Griffith was too frightened to vote with the GOP on the extension of unemployment benefits. The party line-- whispered in fear this time, not screeched like their usual obstructionism-- was that "we" can't afford an extension of benefits and it'll lead to more pressure to tax rich people. Griffith slinked across the aisle to vote with the Democrats-- although he passed one of his conservative Blue Dog ex-colleagues, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, going in the other direction.

Griffith's not likely to win many Democratic votes with these kinds of shenanigans and his new party just hates him. A straw poll of college Republicans at UA Huntsville last week showed him a very distant third after Les Phillip and teabagger Mo Brooks. Of the 250 votes cast 46% went to Phillip, 45% to Brooks and poor Griffith only scrounged up a measly 9%. Griffith has been forced to return loads of donations, while burning through almost all his cash on hand to try to persuade Republicans he's one of them. He's in big trouble.

This is a district that hasn't had a Republican congressman in a century and a half-- until Griffith jumped the fence and overturned the voters' decision. There are four Democrats competing for their party's nomination, from right to left Tazewell Shepard, a conservative legacy grandson who seems to think he just "owns" the nomination; a sleazy lobbyist named Steve Raby who may or may not stay in the race, Mitchell Howie and David Maker.

Shepard, an admitted conservative, who didn't even make any pretence about calling himself a "moderate" until someone clued him in a few weeks ago, is probably to the right of Parker Griffith. He seems to have thought he could just walk into the nomination because of his family connections. John Sparkman was his grandpa and he's a child of privilege who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter. He seems to believe that his pedigree is a legitimate substitute for doing the work it takes to go out and raise the money to run for Congress. As for the "strong legacy connections," it looks from his first FEC folings that they've chosen not to support him for whatever reason...He had no choice but to loan his campaign $100,000. In short, it just takes a glance at his filing to see that $129,325 of $139,422 he "raised"-- 92.7%, all but $10,097-- is from someone who is related to him-- mostly himself-- or lives in the household of someone who is related to him. He is the essence of what we don't need in Washington, an entitled dynastic politician who doesn't want to work for the people but rather is content to perate in business as usual circles-- not exactly a prediction of someone likely to be a fount of creative ways to approach new problems facing northern Alabama or America.
Raby, who many sources are telling me isn't even going to actually run, took in the most money ($187,410) among Democrats. That's no surprise. He's a master of political bottom-feeding: a lobbyist. Anytime anyone mentions that he makes his substantial living as a lobbyist-- and that he's given piles of money to Republicans (including $3,900 to Jeff Sessions, $2,000 Jo Bonner, $6,300 to Dick Shelby, $1,250 to Bob Aderholt, and $500 to extremist kook and former Rep. Terry Everett)-- he starts moaning about "name calling." He, on the other hand, would rather term his lobbying and his work as a political operative as preparation for a job in Congress-- which I guess it is... if Congress is all about self-serving, special interests, and insiders. He says he's the only Democrat who won't need on the job training. What he would need-- if the people of AL-05 are going to be served-- is re-training. When you look at Raby's website you walk away wondering what he stands for-- other than a grab for political power-- and why he's running (if he is). What are the issues that motivate him? When he says he has been working behind the scenes, what does he mean? Who is he working for?

Mitchell Howie, the populist in this race, is depending on the grassroots for financial support. He didn't do badly-- just over $56,000, al in small grassroots contribution-- and I like the feisty way he put it in his press release:
While some candidates play the old Washington game of stacking up piles of special interest money, and others turn to their own personal checking accounts to make multi-million dollar loans to their own campaign war chests, I have been carrying my message to the voters of the fifth district. I will fight for policies that will encourage quality jobs, work to improve our education system and foster strength in our nation's defense, and so many folks have responded generously.
In these difficult times, I am grateful for their support. I recognize the sacrifice that their contributions may represent and I commit both to those who support my campaign and those who do not, that when I am elected, this seat in Congress will once again belong to the people of North Alabama. 

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