I attended the Madison County Republican breakfast Saturday morning – the place was packed – extra chairs had to be pulled out for seating. This shows a lot of interest and energy in the Alabama Republican Party, given that the scheduled speakers were “statewide Republican candidates with primary opposition” – that is, no big names were advertised.
The ‘biggest’ speaker was State Senator Hank Erwin, running for Lieutenant Governor. I’d never met Erwin, but I’ve agreed with him on some issues and disagreed with him on others (he was the biggest opponent of last year’s Gourmet Beer Bill). I got to speak with him early and found that he’s a nice guy – I’d already thought of him as a pretty good politician. He talked about passing movie industry incentives last year and how he’d like to recruit ‘wholesome family movies’ to Alabama. I wonder if the incentives helped bring Bear Grylls’ nude bottom (Man vs Wild) to Alabama…
I caught up with Erwin after the event to speak with him about Free the Hops and the Brewery Modernization Act. I think he was somewhere between uncomfortable and amused with our discussion. I hope to turn him around on FTH, but regardless, he has my vote.
Congressman Parker Griffith attended the breakfast. As usual, Elbert Peters announced the names of elected officals attending and asked for people to hold their applause until all the elected officials were recognized. Griffith received (light but enthusiastic) applause anyway. He wasn’t alone in receiving applause, but I thought I’d point it out.
Griffith and I chatted before the breakfast – he recognized me as a contributor here at Flashpoint. For the record, his face wasn’t beet-red. Also for the record, the man is a gifted politician.
As someone interested in the art of politics, I think that Griffith is a talented politican and I’ve mused that he wouldn’t have switched parties unless he thought he could win. So, I asked him how he thinks he can win.
Griffith began by saying that the Congressional Democrats were more liberal than he thought (if only he had read Flashpoint! – and if only I’d been quick enough on my feet to remember that quip!) and that the Democrat leadership was too liberal to work with - Democrats were opposed to issues critical to Alabama like manned space flight and defense. Griffith mentioned a recent encounter with someone who criticized him for switching parties and he noted that Ronald Reagan and Richard Shelby and Fob James also switched parties (IIRC Reagan and James weren’t in office when they switched). Griffith noted that the GOP leadership assigned him to the Energy and Commerce Committee – unlike some who diminish this Committee’s power I think that it’s a peach appointment – it’s one of the most powerful committees in the House. I mentioned that Griffith had gotten a good welcome to the party with the Davidson fundraiser.
An interesting point that Griffith brought up was the number of Republican crossovers who voted for him when he was a Democrat – he’s certainly counting on their votes this time.
Here’s ace reporter Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times on the committee appointment (“Griffith says he’s satisfied with the way he changed parties”):
Griffith, as a new Republican, has emerged as the only freshman member of Congress on the Energy and Commerce committee, a group that touches roughly half of the legislation in Congress. That includes health care and communications reforms, and energy policy, foreign commerce and consumer protection.
Before people start thinking I’ve gone over to Griffith’s side, let me say that he’s my third choice. However before he was elected to Congress I said that I could vote FOR Griffith on the issues – this was before the hospital scandal. My biggest problem is still the Huntsville Hospital documents – I read them and they’re disturbing – but I’m left wondering if that’s just me. After all, Griffith wasn’t arrested and he still has his medical license – if he really did cause “unwarranted pain and suffering” to his patients then something should have been done years ago. I don’t think I got played – the documents were real – but maybe they didn’t give me the whole story (does that mean I got played?). That whole mess is disturbing – no wonder people wanted to ignore it.
I spoke with a few people about Griffith’s switch – he’s got a surprising amount of support. Some of his biggest GOP detractors will vote for him over any Democrat. IMO if he makes it through the primary – he’ll win the election.
One of the most intriguing items to come from the day was an invitation for Brian and me to meet with Griffith – given that whatever we write on this blog we’ll say to someone’s face - won’t that be interesting…