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Brooks Wins Race Over Ala. Party-Switching Griffith

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith lost badly Tuesday in his first campaign since switching parties as GOP voters rejected his claims of being a true-blue conservative in favor of a county commissioner backed by tea party leaders across north Alabama.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial returns showed Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks just above the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff in the three-person field. Parker pulled about 33 percent of the vote.

With a few boxes remaining to be counted in two counties, Brooks said Griffith called him to concede.

"We were outspent 8- or 10-to-1 and still won," said Brooks.

On the Democratic side in the 5th District, which covers north Alabama's Tennessee Valley region, Steve Raby easily claimed his party's nomination over lawyers Mitchell Howie and Taze Shepard and missile defense scientist David Maker.

Republican incumbent Reps. Spencer Bachus and Jo Bonner easily won their primaries, but three other congressional races were headed toward runoffs.

In southeast Alabama's 2nd District, four Republicans sought the chance to challenge Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright, the former mayor of Montgomery. Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby led with 48 percent of the vote, just short of the majority needed to win outright. Tea party activist Rick Barber, with about 28 percent, would be the runoff opponent, with state school board member Stephanie Bell and former U.S. Marine John "Fighting Beau" McKinney trailing.

Griffith had one of the most conservative voting records of any House member as a Democrat. He opposed Obama's economic stimulus measure last year and voted against an anti-global warming bill pushed strongly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

But Griffith's switch to the Republican Party in December made him a target in the primary as many north Alabama Republicans still felt the sting of losing to Griffith when he was a Democrat in 2008. A medical doctor from Huntsville and a former state senator, Griffith voted mostly conservative and said the Democratic Party had left him when he switched in December.

But it was a short time between the switch and the primary, and some top local GOP leaders didn't warm to Griffith. Brooks called him a "flip-flopper" and won the endorsement of tea party leaders across north Alabama.

In the heavily Democratic 7th District of west Alabama, where voters will choose a replacement for Rep. Artur Davis in the fall, Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot and attorney Terri Sewell advanced from a four-person field to make the runoff. Earl Hilliard Jr., son of the former congressman from the district, and Martha Bozeman trailed.

Among Republicans, Don Chamberlain, a businessman and inventor from Selma, and Birmingham-area candidate Chris Salter will be in a runoff for the 7th District nomination. Carol F. Hendrickson, a registered nurse from Birmingham, and Michele Waller, a retired microbiologist who now works at a hospital in Shelby County, trailed.

Bachus, of Vestavia Hills, easily won re-nomination in the 6th District over GOP challenger Stan Cooke of Kimberly, and Bonner trounced Peter Gournares in the 2nd District of southwest Alabama.

Other incumbents had no opposition in their own party.