Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Rep. Parker Griffith, the Alabama Democrat who famously switched parties to become a Republican in 2009, was trounced in his first GOP primary Tuesday night by an 18-point margin.
Griffith is the second House member to be ousted in a primary this year, along with scandal-plagued Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.VA.), and joins Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) as a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of switching parties to save their political hide in the next election. Both lost in their new parties' primaries by wide margins.
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks had won 51 percent of the vote, while Parker had just 33 percent. Local veteran Les Phillips had 16 percent.
According to several local media reports, Griffith refused to speak to reporters or to his own supporters Tuesday night, who had gathered for a victory party. Instead, he released a written concession statement saying, "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."
Brooks, on the other hand, delivered a blistering victory speech, according to the Hunstville Times
, saying Republicans must stop "those who think socialism is the way to go."
Brooks will face Democratic nominee Steve Raby in the November election, but he said Tuesday night, "I know who our general election opponent is: [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi." He added: "Our ultimate goal is not to win the primary. We have to do for America one thing, which is to get a new speaker of the House."
The electoral roller coaster for Griffith began almost as soon as he was sworn in as a Democrat to take over Bud Cramer's Alabama House seat in 2008, the year that Sen. John McCain won the district with 61 percent of the vote.
In the House, the former oncologist quickly established one of the most conservative voting records in his party. He voted against several of the Democrats' signature issues, including the $787 billion stimulus, the controversial "cap and trade" energy bill, and health care reform legislation. In August of 2009, he told the Hunstville Times
he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker again, saying, "Someone that divisive and that polarizing cannot bring us together."
After less than a year as a House Democrat, Griffith announced he would become a Republican. At a press conference in his Huntsville district, he told reporters he did not belong in the Democratic Party. "There is no room for a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, conservative businessman," he said, adding that he needed to "stand with a party more in tune with my beliefs and convictions."
But even though national Republicans had encouraged Griffith to join their party, local Republicans already had their own plans for the seat and refused to drop out of the race after Parker announced he would switch parties to run in the GOP primary instead.