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.