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Super PAC, Controversy Threaten Bachus’ Seat

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Spencer Bachus (above) faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Scott Beason in Alabama’s 6th district. While Beason hasn’t raised much money, he’s received backing from a super PAC, and an ethics investigation also poses a problem for the incumbent.

Could an upset be brewing in the Deep South?

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) has been trying his hardest to make sure one isn’t.

The chairman of the Financial Services Committee faces a serious primary challenge today from state Sen. Scott Beason (R) in Alabama’s 6th district. But insiders tip the Congressman to pull out a victory. Bachus has spent heavily on advertising in his district, and that could mean he’ll avoid having to suffer through a runoff election.

Bachus’ campaign doled out about $752,000 in expenditures from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Beason, Bachus’ most serious challenger, hasn’t raised much money. But an outside super PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, has aired anti-Bachus TV ads. The organization helped support a primary challenger to Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), who was upset last week.

The super PAC has put up two television spots and a radio ad in the Birmingham-area district, backed by a not insubstantial amount of money.

“The last count was $169,000, and there is more to come,” organization spokesman Curtis Ellis said Monday.

Bachus is under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for potential violations of insider trading laws. He took a hard public relations hit when a November “60 Minutes” investigation noted he had made money on trades during the 2008 financial crisis. He has also taken heat for his vote in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the bank bailout.

But Bachus probably still has the edge in the election, Alabama insiders said.

Alabama has a few other GOP primaries to keep an eye on.

Former Rep. Parker Griffith, who lost a GOP primary in 2010 after switching from the Democratic Party, launched a rematch with freshman Rep. Mo Brooks (R) in Alabama’s 5th district. A January poll of likely GOP primary voters by respected firm Public Opinion Strategies found Brooks had a whopping 57-point lead over the former Democrat.

Rep. Jo Bonner (R) also faces a primary in the 1st district but is expected to come away with a victory. He spent about $200,000 on advertising in January and February, according to FEC records.

In the other state with Congressional primaries today, Mississippi, there shouldn’t be too much intrigue on tap.

Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) faces a race against former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross and another candidate. The freshman Member is likely to be fine.

On the Democratic side, 9-term Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, faces Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer. McTeer struggled to raise money but contributed about $150,000 to her campaign last week, on top of earlier personal loans, according to FEC records. But Democrats don’t think she has much of a shot.

“I think Congressman Thompson, his leadership in the Delta is solid. He’s been faithful to the folks down there,” said Democratic consultant Burns Strider, who is a Mississippi native deeply familiar with the South. “I think he’s fine. I don’t think McTeer can pose a credible challenge.”

That’s likely the case for all the challengers today, but given the low regard in which Americans hold Congress and its Members, the possibility for an upset exists.

Polls in both states open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. CDT.

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