Party-Switcher Griffith Loses GOP Primary

Posted June 1, 2010 at 11:35pm

Congress lost its second party-switching Member in as many weeks Tuesday when freshman Rep. Parker Griffith was defeated in the Republican primary in Alabama’s 5th district.

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks won the three-way contest without needing a runoff by taking 51 percent of the vote Tuesday. Griffith had 33 percent, and Navy veteran Les Phillip had 16 percent.

Griffith’s defeat is sure to be interpreted as yet another sign of the general anti-establishment mood of the country during this midterm election cycle. But as with Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary two weeks ago, Griffith’s defeat was also very much about his decision to change political teams last December and his inability to connect with his new party base.

Although Griffith was quickly embraced by national Republican leaders after his party switch, he never won over tea party activists or local GOP leaders in his northern Alabama district.

Early this year two county GOP executive committees in the district took the unusual step of endorsing anyone but Griffith in the primary, while tea party activists went so far as to protest a Griffith fundraiser in the district that featured House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Brooks was able to rally that support and combine it with a $100,000 personal loan and just enough funding to get his message out and not be drowned out by Griffith’s more than $1.1 million in campaign disbursements.

Brooks said last week that he was holding back nearly six figures in campaign cash in the event of a runoff — a sum that will give him a good cash-on-hand base in the conservative district as he looks to the general election.

In that contest he’ll face Democratic political consultant Steve Raby, who won his primary with more than 60 percent of the vote. The runner-up in that contest was lawyer Taze Shepard, grandson of former Alabama Sen. John Sparkman (D).

Brooks will be the favorite in the November election, but national Democrats hold out some hope that Raby, like Griffith and nine-term Rep. Bud Cramer before him, can keep the Huntsville-area seat in the Democratic column.