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As had been rumored for much of last week, nouveau Republican Parker Griffith, assuming that he can survive getting teabagged in a GOP primary, is staring down the barrel of legitimate Democratic opposition in the general.

In what would certainly be a Clash of Alabama titans: consider the possibility of Parker Griffith versus Ron Sparks:

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks is signaling that he's open to dropping his gubernatorial bid to run against party-switching Rep. Parker Griffith, a move that would give House Democrats their preferred recruit to reclaim the seat and also clear the party's field in the governor's race.

Sparks, in his second term in statewide office, is currently running for governor against Rep. Artur Davis, but Democrats in Alabama and Washington indicate that he’s willing to switch races to take on Griffith, who joined the GOP last week.

Certainly, the DCCC, more than a little stung by Griffith's defection after he willingly accepted over $1 million to win the seat in the first place in 2008, are going to make Griffith's ouster a priority. And Sparks, as a two-time victor statewide as the state's Agriculture Commissioner, is a pretty hot commodity.

A Sparks candidacy has been a rumor since the day Griffith made the call last week to cross the aisle and announce his membership in the GOP, giving the Republicans control of the northern Alabama-based 5th district for the first time since Reconstruction.

What makes the rumor sound a little more plausible now is that Sparks' campaign manager appears to be talking up a congressional bid, even while making it clear that his boss is keeping his options open:

Justin Saia, Sparks’ campaign manager, would only say that the commissioner is "open to entertaining other options" – but then made the case for why his candidate would be formidable in the congressional campaign.

"He has won every county in the 5th twice," Saia said, noting Sparks’ roots in north Alabama.

Born and raised in Fort Payne, near the Georgia border, Sparks does not actually live in the 5th district (he lives in the uber-conservative 4th district, represented by Republican Robert Aderholt since 1996). However, his hometown is literally less than 15 miles from the southern boundary of the 5th district, so a carpetbagger claim would be a bit of a stretch.

A Sparks candidacy for Congress would also have the effect of essentially clearing the Democratic field for the state's gubernatorial race. While Politico sees that as an absolute asset (allowing for the conservation of resources), progressives would have to swallow a little bile: such a move would essentially anoint Artur Davis, last seen voting with the Republicans on health care in a district that went 74-26 for President Obama, as the Democratic nominee.

UPDATE (DavidNYC): Looks like Sparks won't be running, it turns out.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:36 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I asked Griffith, in writing, for my $50 (5+ / 0-)

    contribution back. Wonder if I'll ever receive it?

    "The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony." Susan Sontag

    by Shane Hensinger on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:38:07 PM PST

  •  Get Artur Davis out of Congress? Fine with me. (5+ / 0-)

    Meanwhile, we'll be up by at least one, and possibly two, actual Democrats and not the DINOs Rahm habitually recruited.

    Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

    by Phoenix Woman on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:40:00 PM PST

  •  I Hate Personality Politics & Making... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melvynny, quaoar, Positronicus, edbb, Nathan45

    ...politics personal as a general rule.

    That being said, let's unseat this shithead.

  •  He's making the decision tomorrow apparently (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    countrycat, James Allen

    The carpetbagging charge worried when I heard he didnt live in the district. But if he has won the district twice, and his hometown is just outside the district, as you say, hopefully it isnt a huge problem.

    •  There was a lot of concern about that (0+ / 0-)

      as well as some other things that had local AL-05 people concerned that this was NOT a good idea - the DCCC's supposed enthusiasm notwithstanding:

      Is Ron Sparks Really the Best Candidate for AL-05?

      We've been following this whole thing very closely at Left in Alabama and local Democratic activisits' initial enthusiasm for Sparks' candidacy in AL-05 faded pretty quickly.

      He had already almost announced for Lt. Governor in February, pivoted quickly when Folsom (the current Lt. Gov.) decided unexpectedly to run for re-election, then jumped in for Governor after some public dithering of "I'll run for some office, but I'm not sure which."

      If he were to quit the governor's race to run for Congress, the "opportunist" charge or the "want to stay on the public payroll" charge would have a lot more weight to it.

      I like Sparks a lot, but I live in AL-05 and people were grumbling that he doesn't even live in the district... what did he think he was doing?

      However, if Sparks wants a congressional run, he is in Aderholdt's district and Aderholdt is a jerk who needs his butt kicked in a big way.

      Yes. There ARE progressive Democrats in Alabama. Visit with us at Left in Alabama

      by countrycat on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 05:55:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Roll, Ron, Roll!!!! (5+ / 0-)

    Man, I hate Parker Griffith.  A  shady millionaire cancer doc from Huntsville, pulls a Shelby by going Dem to get elected, then switching.  He makes me want to puke.

    C'mon, Ron.   Do it.  From one of your North Alabama brothers.  Do it for the Great State of Alabama, in the tradition of that magnificent Senator, the late Howell T. Heflin (Yellow Dog D-AL).  I promise a great big campaign contribution and possibly a trip down there to post some signs and fight with the locals.  

    Roll, Ron, Roll.  Beat Texas!  Oops.  Griffith.  That's right.  Beat Griffith.

    Saban and the rest:  you beat Texas.  Beat 'em like a rented mule!  

    "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." To Kill A Mockingbird

    by DC Scott on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:42:28 PM PST

  •  question (0+ / 0-)

    Is Sparks a liberal dem?

    •  IIRC he's not as liberal as (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howd, fla1sun, James Allen

      we are here (I live in Alabama) but he's significantly more liberal than Artur Davis.

      "Everybody lies... except POLITICIANS? House, I do believe you are a romantic."

      by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:57:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Davis is no Democrat (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        that's for sure.  He seems to fit right in with the BCA and the rovians.

      •  Depends (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        countrycat, quaoar

        On state issues Davis is very progressive, at a minimum.  He's the only candidate on either side advocating for a new state constitution -- ours is an absolute albatross -- and he's proposed the toughest set of ethics reforms ever for Montgomery: full disclosure for lobbyists, no gifts from lobbyists, caps on campaign contributions (currently virtually unlimited for state races), prohibition of moving money from PAC to PAC to disguise the source, actual subpoena power for the Ethics Commission -- seriously good stuff!

        You may not be happy with the positions of either candidate on choice, but at least Davis released a statement immediately while Sparks took 24 hours and still shed no light on the matter.  That's par for the course, I'm afraid.

        Sparks has done a good job as Ag Commissioner, but his campaign has not been run well from the very beginning whereas Davis is running a well-organized, professional organization that never misses an opportunity and never dithers over a decision.  Sometimes the way you run a campaign gives a clue how you would govern; if so, the state would be in much better hands with Davis.  And if Sparks runs for Congress, he needs to get his organization in gear or the GOP (or maybe another Dem) will have him for breakfast.

    •  About as liberal as white Democrats get... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fla1sun, James Allen Alabama. He's a pretty strong left-leaning populist, iirc.

    •  He is a progressive. (0+ / 0-)

      He support robust HCR, comprehensive immgiration reform and civil rights for all americans.

  •  Parker Griffith is toasted (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Republicans secret dream = the impeachment of Bo the Dog LOL

    by LaurenMonica on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:49:10 PM PST

  •  LOL (0+ / 0-)

    nouveau Republican Parker Griffith, assuming that he can survive getting teabagged in a GOP primary


  •  James L at Swing State noticed (5+ / 0-)

    that Sparks has events scheduled outside the district tomorrow, which suggests that he will announce he's running for governor, not Congress.

    Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

    by desmoinesdem on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:54:26 PM PST

  •  Ugh. (0+ / 0-)

    Sparks is actually a Democrat.

    Davis seemed to show promise at first but he's way too conservative. I'd rather see Sparks fight for the governorship than a representative position.

    On the other hand it would be interesting if Davis actually won the nomination AND the governorship.

    "Everybody lies... except POLITICIANS? House, I do believe you are a romantic."

    by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:54:32 PM PST

    •  win-win-win (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mooncat, howd, indiemcemopants, OHknighty

      #1: Ron Sparks replaces Parker Griffith.
      #2: Alabama gets a Democratic governor, albeit a conservative one, in Artur Davis.
      #3: Davis' congressional district gets a more loyal Democratic rep.

      "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

      by James Allen on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 07:07:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well when you put it that way (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen

        I'm all for it.

        "Everybody lies... except POLITICIANS? House, I do believe you are a romantic."

        by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 07:10:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not Going To Happen (0+ / 0-)

            White non-Hispanics will cast 65-70% of the vote for Governor of Alabama. Gore got 26% of their votes; Kerry got 19%. Obama got ten percent.
            Ten percent of 65% of the total vote.
            There is no way in hell that Alabama is going to elect an African-American governor in the foreseeable future--certainly not next year. It amazes me that knowledgeable people take that possibility seriously. It would be easier to elect an African-American Governor in Mississippi than in Alabama: the whites are every bit as monolithic, but the African-American share of the vote is larger there.  

        •  Davis has been polling strongly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          enough that it definitely can happen.

          "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

          by James Allen on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 07:51:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

                What do the polls indicate about Davis's chances? I think it's obvious that an African-American candidate can get around 40% in Alabama--Obama got 39% of the two-party vote. But to get much over 40% he'd have to get more than 15% of the White vote, and to get to 50% he'd need about 28% of the White vote. Do the polls say that's attaianble for Davis?

            •  Polling (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Anzalone Liszt poll has Davis 43%, Repub Bradley Byrne 38% in a head to head general election match-up.

              Byrne leads Davis by a hair more than the margin of error in a PPP poll from June.  Sparks trails badly and Davis outpolls all other Repubs.

              An AEA poll from August showed Davis ahead of all Repubs and leading Sparks by 30.  Apparently they ran this poll again in October and saw virtually no change.

              And this Anzalone Liszt poll from January did something interesting ...

              OK, fine.  But do these poll respondents realize Artur Davis is black?  Just in case, Anzalone-Liszt checked that, too:


              According to pollster John Anzalone, "While race is an impossible factor to evaluate in any campaign, it is fair to say that when white voters learn that Davis is black, that fact alone does not shift them away from Davis. On balance, when they are told that he is a black congressman from Birmingham, Davis' support actually moves up in a majority of the white subgroups based on gender and age."

              Like Obama was the first serious African-American candidate to seek the presidency, Davis might be the first African-American with a serious chance at the Alabama governorship.  That fact alone can pique the interest of certain voters and inject energy into the race -- it certainly did for Obama.  Now for the question we have all asked and discussed so often when the subject of a Davis candidacy is raised:  Is Alabama ready to elect a black governor in 2010?  This survey asked that question and found that ...

                 A majority (51 percent) agree, while 38 percent disagree.  These results are virtually unchanged from the July sample, which split 53 percent agree to 37 percent disagree.

              •  Thanks For The Link (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                     I've read your article on the first link, and it appears that Anzalone is Davis's pollster. It's frustrating that although there are racial breakdowns for the Democratic primary and a mention of White support for Davis in one region of the state, there is not a racial tab for a statewide general election matchup.
                     I respect what you're doing and I wish you all the best. But I think what you've provided is consistent with my belief that there is a ceiling for an African-American statewide candidate in the low to mid 40s, and with voting in Alabama as racially polarized as it is (98% of African-Americans for Obama, 88% of Whites for McCain) I still have very strong doubts that any African-American, no matter how conservative, can win the governorship of Alabama. If Davis were a strong progressive, it might make sense to support him anyway, but if he's going to run and, if successful, govern as a Blue Dog, I'd prefer that energy and resources go elsewhere.
                     Again, thanks for your response. You obviously know more than I ever will about politics in Alabama.
  •  Artur Davis.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melvynny, Mooncat, James Allen, OHknighty

    ...will do a whole lot more good as Governor of Alabama than he will pretending to be a Blue Dog in his overwhelmingly Democratic district. I'm all for Sparks pulling out and clearing the field for Davis if that's that case. Best case scenario: Davis' seat is filled by a liberal Democrat (like Earl Hilliard, but without the controversy), Sparks knocks off Griffith in the 5th (or whoever knocks off Griffith in the primary, which is a distinct possibility), and Davis becomes Governor of Alabama. Everyone wins!

  •  Ron Sparks on why he's running (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melvynny, countrycat, James Allen

    Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks talks about the 2010 governor's race in Alabama, why he's seeking that office and why he did not run for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

    LeftinalabamaVids has upped a bunch of these, including some on Artur Davis.

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 07:02:42 PM PST

    •  The transcript for that video can be read (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      He volunteered that statement, we weren't pressing him on why he ended up in the governor's race.  He talks about "a spot for me" and the subtext of that, I think, is that Sparks wants to continue in government.  In his view, Artur Davis should have stayed in Congress and then there would have been a place for everyone.  

      If you pay attention to Alabama politics you will remember both the Senate race that never materialized back in 2007 and that Sparks gave off very confusing signals last spring about whether he was running for Gov. or Lt. Gov. -- so confusing that at least one newspaper got the story wrong the day he announced.  If he was interested in AL-05, I think he would have been much better served to have done some behind the scenes inquiries, made his decision and then talked to the press.  As it is, if he stays in the gov. race he's bound to get slammed as half-hearted for even considering getting out to run for Congress.  

  •  It doesnt matter... (0+ / 0-)

    Griffith made a very wise move getting out in front of the tsunami of democrats getting waxed in the upcoming elections.  Unfortunately, the political reality is anyone running as a liberal/democrat in the next couple of election cycles is going to find it very tough sledding.  Like the move or not, it was smart and only about saving his seat and the only way to do that is jump off the titanic with a life boat before the ship hits the iceberg...

    We mock what we do not understand.

    by Tea Bag You on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 07:08:18 PM PST

  •  Another great post, Steve. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mooncat, James Allen

    You are wired into the politics around these here parts!

    Sparks, who is a great, firebrand speaker, is running on a state lottery platform.  (Which I like.)  He is against rewriting the state constitution, which  doesn't sit too well with the local liberals.  (Including me.)

    Davis doesn't oppose gambling, but he said at a forum in Birmingham several months ago that he doesn't think the state's prosperity should be tied to that one issue.  He says he will work toward better quality jobs than the ones gambling provides.  He is supportive of rewriting the state constitution.

    Sparks will not be a raging liberal on social issues, imo.   I do think he's electable.

  •  Griffith will not make it out of GOP Primary... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nathan45, James Allen

    Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing. -G.Greenwald

    by Jonze on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 07:18:55 PM PST

  •  I agree jonze, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mooncat, Nathan45

    Also, Metal Prophet.

    Another point, the repubs threw their party members who are running for the congressional seat under the bus.  Mo Brooks must be furious.  Or did they welcome Griffith with open arms just to eliminate him??  Neuter him??  Griffith is going to end up as a man without a party, without a political friend in the world.  No man's land.  IMO.

  •  Still think it a brilliant move, Mr. Griffith? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mooncat, mcfeeley108

    Seriously, this f__king idiot not only pissed off every Democrat in the state, he also jumped without getting assurances from the GOP that he would be welcomed and would have their full support. Instead, he's being roasted by GOPers as an opportunistic pretender, the teabaggers and the Club For Growth are targeting him and the other GOP candidates are not only refusing to drop out, they seem to be redoubling their efforts.

    Again, what a f__king idiot. Most likely he'll lose the GOP primary and end up a shunned political pariah.

    •  He pissed off kossacks and Speaker Pelosi (0+ / 0-)

      Even if he miraculously won the Repug primary and the general election, he would feel the wrath of us feisty fighting kossacks and Speaker Pelosi and the progressive majority throughout his congressional days. He would feel the wrath of us that support robust HCR, comprehensive immgiration reform and civil rights for all americans and he would wither in the face of our wrath.

  •  Sparks is supposed to announce his decision tmrw (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mooncat, countrycat

    He's holding three pressers - Huntsville, Birmingham, and his HQ in Montgomery. From what I've heard, the general consensus is he's going to remain in the Governor's race.

    It's probably going to come down to Susan Parker or Deborah Bell Paseur, but Susan Parker is looking to keep her seat on our Public Service Commission ... I'm not a North Alabama native, but from what I hear, both women are good candidates and fairly popular in the district. Too bad the DCCC didn't rally behind Parker in '08 - would've been a far wiser investment of the $1mil.

  •  This could actually get interesting. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It would indeed be a feather in the Dems' cap to knock the aisle-switcher out first time out of the gate.

    And, it is certainly possible.

  •  Griffith is doomed either way (0+ / 0-)

    He was definitely going to lose as a democrat and he probably won't even get the nomination as a republican so I guess he figured haveing a snowballs chance in hell was better than no chance.
    The guy was a useless democrat anyway, he voted with
    the republicans almost all the time. In fact we have to many useless democrats in congress like him.

  •  If not Mr. Sparks, we need someone (0+ / 0-)

    We have had a Democrat in this district since the Civil War. We need someone like Mr. Sparks to take out Griffith or the Republic nominee. As the DailyKos poll shows, there is strong support for President Obama and the progressive priorities. Putting comprehensive immigration reform and civil rights for all americans on the front burner in 2010 to go along with HCR will help us keep this district in progressive hands for a long time. We need a DailyKos poll that shows strong support for choice and competition in HCR to encourage a progressive Democrat to get in this race.

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