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Rep. Griffith of Alabama leaves Democrats for Republicans

At his home in Huntsville, Ala., Rep. Parker Griffith discusses his party switch alongside wife Virginia. Griffith represents a conservative district and criticized Democratic leaders even while in the party.
At his home in Huntsville, Ala., Rep. Parker Griffith discusses his party switch alongside wife Virginia. Griffith represents a conservative district and criticized Democratic leaders even while in the party. (Jay Reeves/associated Press)
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By Chris Cillizza
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Freshman Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) switched his affiliation to the Republican Party on Tuesday, saying he could "no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country."

Griffith was elected last year to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dropped more than $1 million in independent expenditures to keep the seat, and Griffith won with 51 percent, even though only 38 percent of voters in the north Alabama district chose Barack Obama for president.

"Democrats of every stripe and philosophy sweated and bled for this man," said Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham. "He narrowly became a congressman through the hard work, votes and financial contributions of thousands of Democrats. Today, they feel betrayed."

The DCCC's chairman, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), took that criticism a step further, citing Griffith's "duty and responsibility" to return all contributions made to him by Democratic members of Congress.

The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.), sought to cast Griffith's decision as symbolic of larger problems with the Democratic caucus. "His decision is emblematic of the message that millions of concerned citizens have been trying to send to a Democrat Party that has become increasingly unwilling to listen," Sessions said.

And the House Republican leader, Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio), said, "Congressman Griffith has added his voice to the growing chorus of Americans who have had it with Democrats' wrongheaded policies."

Griffith had voiced his frustration with party leaders several times and had made it clear that he wouldn't back Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) again as speaker of the House. "I would not vote for her," Griffith told a constituent at a town hall meeting in August. "Someone that divisive and that polarizing cannot bring us together."

But he voted with the Democratic majority 84.5 percent of time, according to The Washington Post's votes database. Griffith did, however, vote against the health-care reform bill that the House passed in November.

In the immediate aftermath of Griffith's switch, his entire consulting team quit, according to a well-placed source.

The news of the switch was first reported by Politico.


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