Blue Dog Dem Griffith to switch parties
By Jordan Fabian and Emily Goodin - 12/22/09 11:06 AM ET
UPDATED: Freshman Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) on Tuesday will announce he is switching parties to become a Republican.
An Alabama Republican Party source confirmed that Griffith, a Blue Dog Democrat, will make the announcement at 1 p.m.
Sources tell The Hill that GOP lawmakers in the Alabama delegation, including Rep. Robert Aderholt, began wooing Griffith several weeks ago.
Griffith occupies one of the most conservative districts held by a Democrat, but he replaced Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer (Ala.) in a seat that has stayed Democratic even as the South has trended Republican in federal elections.
Despite his vulnerable district, Griffith had yet to draw a top-flight GOP challenger. Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks and businessman Les Phillip each raised modest money for the race, with Phillip self-funding a little bit.
Griffith has bucked his party on nearly all of the items at the top of its legislative agenda.
This month he voted against the Democrats' bills on financial regulatory reform, estate tax, and the omnibus. He was one of four Democrats to oppose healthcare reform, climate change and the stimulus package. The other three were Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Walt Minnick (Idaho) and Gene Taylor (Miss.).
Griffith said in August that he would not back Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for House Speaker again because she is too divisive.
"I would not vote for her. Someone that divisive and that polarizing cannot bring us together," he told the Huntsville Times. "If she doesn't like it, I've got a gift certificate to the mental health center."
Griffith won the open 5th district by a mere 4 percent in 2008; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried the district with 61 percent in the presidential election.
His announcement comes after four House Democrats in recent weeks declared they would retire without seeking higher office, Reps. Dennis Moore (Kan.), Brian Baird (Wash.), John Tanner (Tenn.) and Bart Gordon (Tenn.)
Republicans now view those four seats as pickup opportunities for the 2010 midterm elections.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) welcomed Griffith to the Republican conference via Twitter on Tuesday.
"Welcome aboard!" wrote the congressman on his account.
— Aaron Blake, Bob Cusack, and Molly K. Hooper contributed to this post.
— This post was updated at 11:37 a.m.