Lawmaker leaving party is latest lump for Alabama Democrats

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State Rep. Richard Laird has voted with Republicans for years, but announced on Monday that he would leave the Democratic Party and begin caucusing with Republicans.

Rep. Richard Laird

Laird is the latest white Democrat to leave the party, although he will be an independent. Several other white Democrats jumped ship earlier in this four-year term and became Republicans. Some switched parties just days after the 2010 election.

The white Democrat is becoming more of a rarity in the Alabama State House and after the 2014 election, with the way Republicans redrew the legislative districts, there will likely be fewer white Democrats.
There are now just 11 white Democrats in the 105-member House and four in the 35-member Senate.
While there will be very little difference in the voting in the House because of Laird’s move, his move is indicative of the political mood in the state.
In an op-ed sent out not long after Laird announced he was switching parties, House Minority Leader Craig Ford argued that the Alabama Democratic Party is not dead in Alabama.
Maybe not dead, but not very healthy.
The Republicans have supermajorities in the House and the Senate, control every statewide judicial seat, and control all other statewide offices. All of them.
Ford argued that Democrats are well-positioned to take back some seats in 2014, but that argument is hard to understand since Republicans drew districts that will favor them in 2014. And Republicans have dominated statewide elections.
Ford cited some success stories in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections. Then-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright became the first Democrat to win the 2nd Congressional District seat since 1963 in the 2008 election. Bright did win in a very conservative district in central and southeast Alabama, but he lost two years later even with a very conservative voting record.
Joe Hubbard, a Montgomery Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican David Grimes in a race for his legislative seat in 2010. In a year that was devastating for Democrats, Hubbard was one of the few Democrats to defeat a sitting Republican lawmaker in 2010. But the demographics of that district had changed in recent years and were moving to the left.
Ford also points out the Republicans outworked Democrats in the 2010 election when Republicans took the majorities in the House and Senate for the first time in more than a century. He is right. Mike Hubbard, who was then chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, did outwork the opposition. He worked with other party leaders to raise money and wisely target seats they felt Republicans could win. And they did.
Ford also argues that Lucy Baxley, the last Democrat to hold a statewide seat in Alabama, lost in 2012 because her health kept her from actively campaigning. And Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bob Vance narrowly lost to Republican Roy Moore after being in the race for chief justice for just eight weeks. And Vance did come close after running in his first statewide race. Vance did not have very high name recognition, but he did spend heavily and inundated the airwaves with TV ads. And Moore is a polarizing figure so if there was an opponent that a Democrat could pull crossover votes away from, it would be Moore.
So, many of Ford’s arguments are not strong.
And, on the other side, Democrats just failed to field a candidate in a state Senate race in a seat that the party held until the 2006 election. Republican Ben Brooks won the Mobile County seat in 2006 over incumbent Democrat Gary Tanner. Brooks stepped down late last year to claim a circuit judge seat he won earlier in the year. And Democrats were unable to find a viable candidate in the toss-up district. And, even if they did not find a viable candidate, the Democrats should have fielded someone so that Republicans would have at least been a member short for more of the upcoming session, which begins Tuesday. There is currently a runoff for the seat.
With the runoff, the general election in that race would have been on April 23 so Republicans would have gone the majority of the session a member short. The Republicans already have a supermajority in the Senate so the loss of one body for longer would have benefitted the Democrats, who have just 11 members now in the 35-member Senate.
So, not fielding a candidate in the race, a quality one or not, does not speak well for the party at all.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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