Fight Likely for Vacant Cramer Seat

Posted March 14, 2008 at 6:24pm

After enduring 29 House GOP retirements so far this cycle and a string of bad news this week about its accounting practices, the National Republican Congressional Committee earned at least some reprieve on Thursday night when Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) unexpectedly announced his retirement.

The sudden opportunity deep in the heart of Dixie came as welcome news to the NRCC, which has suffered from recent headlines about the embezzlement of committee funds by a former employee.

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain was quick to point out that in 2004, President Bush took 60 percent of the vote in the Huntsville-based 5th district, despite the fact that Cramer won his re-election campaign that year with 73 percent.

“In a district that has been a stronghold for Republican presidential candidates for many years, we clearly view this seat as a potential pickup opportunity,” Spain said. “The recruitment process has already begun, and we look forward to competing for the seat in the fall.”

Among the Republicans said to be eyeing the race are state Sen. Arthur Orr; Stan McDonald, a real estate attorney and GOP donor who is the brother-in-law of Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.); Huntsville Republican activist Wayne Parker, who ran for the seat in the mid-1990s; and two Madison County commissioners, Mo Brooks and Dale Strong.

Officials at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said they, too, have begun the recruiting process and are working with Cramer to find someone who can keep the district in the Democratic column.

One potentially strong Democratic candidate is state Public Service Commissioner Susan Parker. Parker probably would enter the race with the most name recognition, stemming in part from her losing 2002 race against Sen. Jeff Sessions (R). In that race she lost by about 20 points but was able to raise about $1.2 million.

Other Democratic names mentioned on Friday were state Sens. Parker Griffith and Tom Butler and Cramer’s current chief of staff, Carter Wells.

Alabama-based Democratic pollster John Anzalone said Republican excitement over Cramer’s seat stems from a bit of wishful thinking.

“It will be a competitive seat,” Anzalone acknowledged. “It has been in the past at different times with Cramer. But it’s a Democratic seat. And the Republicans don’t have any money to spend on it, so the Republican candidates are kind of on their own.”

In a statement, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) thanked Cramer for his 18 years of Congressional service and called him “an honorable and remarkable advocate for his constituents.”

In addition to serving in Congress since 1990, Cramer also was the Madison County district attorney.

“I believe that this is a good time for me to step aside and transition to new leadership,” the 60-year-old Congressman said in a statement.