Both incumbent members of Congress who switched parties since the 2008 election have now lost re-nomination, as voters turned away Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.) Tuesday.
Griffith conceded late Tuesday night to Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, who defeated Griffith 51-33 percent. A third candidate, veteran Les Phillip, won 16 percent. One candidate needed to get a majority in order to avoid a runoff. The Associated Press called the race around 1 a.m. Wednesday, after this article’s original posting.
Griffith, elected as a Democrat in 2008 to replace nine-term Rep. Bud Cramer (D), was a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. He announced his decision to switch to the Republican Party on Dec. 22, citing disagreements with the House Democratic leadership and his opposition to key pieces of Democratic legislation — including health care reform and cap-and-trade. He had previously also pledged to not vote for Pelosi as speaker for the next Congress if the Democrats held the majority. Days later, most of his staff — including his chief of staff, legislative director, press secretary and even his intern — resigned en masse.
While Griffith got support from national GOP leaders, local party members were skeptical of his loyalty to his new party — particularly so soon after the bruising 2008 general election that saw him beat Republican candidate Wayne Parker 52-48 percent. Both Brooks and Phillip made the party switch a campaign issue, with Brooks running an ad that described him as “a congressman we can trust.”
The other member of Congress who switched parties since the last election, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), lost his party’s nomination to Rep. Joe Sestak May 18. Griffith was the fourth incumbent member of Congress overall to lose re-nomination during this election cycle.
Brooks will face business owner Steve Raby (D), who easily won his party’s nomination, in the general election.
*Update at 1:26 a.m., June 2: *The Huntsville Times reports Griffith did not appear at his own campaign reception, but e-mailed out a statement late Tuesday night after conceding to Brooks:
I look forward to working in Congress on behalf of the people of North Alabama over the next six months. We have a lot of ongoing issues that are important to this community and I will continue to work on those issues and fight for the people of North Alabama.
Update at 6:26 p.m., June 2: Griffith’s loss was the biggest news to come out of yesterday’s primary elections, but there were other results of note.
Rep. Artur Davis lost his bid to be the state’s first black Democratic candidate for governor, falling to Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks 62-38 percent. Analysts are already noting that Davis may have done in his campaign by distancing himself from the party and some of the state’s most influential black organizations. Sparks’ Republican opponent is still unknown — former state Sen. Bradley Byrne and either Dr. Robert Bentley or businessman Tim James will face off in a July 13 runoff.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R) easily won his primary against Tea Party activist Clint Moser. His general election opponent, William G. Barnes (D), won his primary against teacher Simone De Moore 61-39 percent.
All other incumbent House members easily won their primaries, while both primaries in the seat Davis left open will have to be decided in runoffs.
I wouldn’t normally report on a state office, but I’ll make an exception for the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner — the job Sparks is leaving. Dale Peterson, whose ads became viral videos in recent weeks, is out of the running. He came in third place with 27 percent of the vote, disqualifying him from the runoff.
There’s nothing to report here, as all four House incumbents were unopposed in their primaries.
Whether voters elect the Democratic or Republican candidate for governor, they will be choosing the first woman to occupy the office. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) ran unopposed, while Susana Martinez (R), district attorney for Doña Ana County, won her primary against four opponents with 51 percent of the vote.
Former Rep. Steve Pearce (R), who lost the open Senate race to Tom Udall (D) in 2008, easily won the primary to reclaim his House seat from Rep. Harry Teague (D). All three Democratic incumbents were unopposed in their primaries.