Alabama’s 1st U.S. House district, in which I live, went Republican long before the rest of the South became the GOP’s stronghold. Republicans have held the seat since January 1965. Jack Edwards was first (1965 – 1985). He was followed by Sonny Callahan (1985 – 2003), who was succeeded by Jo Bonner (2003 – present).
During the intervening years, the Democratic Party has become so uncompetitive in the Deep South that it has often not even bothered to field a candidate for my district. The last time was 2006 when Vivian Beckerle accepted The Party of Jackson’s nomination and got a miserable 32% of the vote. (In 2008, California transplant Benjamin Lodmell announced that he was going to run as a Democrat but withdrew after being arrested for soliciting a prostitute).
Given the Democrats’ ineptness, it is interesting – and mildly heartening – to see that Bonner is facing some opposition for 2012. Two challengers – Dean Young and Pete Riehm – have announced that they are challenging Bonner for the GOP nomination. Bonner’s vote for George W. Bush’s TARP bailout plan is likely to be a main bone of contention in the race.
Neither of these candidates suits my purple politics. Both are heavily involved in local TEA Party efforts. Young, at least, appears to be making a serious effort at unseating Bonner. The press reports that he has loaned his campaign $100,000. Young also touts an endorsement from Nevada whack job Sharron Angle, who lost a run for U.S. Senate last fall. At least to me, Riehm is largely an unknown; the article that I read mentioned only that he has both supporters and detractors in the local TEA Party. (The article is here: http://blog.al.com/live/2011/10/tea_party_patriots_or_tea_part.html).
How likely are these two to succeed? If the past is any indication, it’s unlikely that either will unseat Bonner. In 2010, local businessman Peter Gounares ran for the 1st District GOP nomination. He ran a visible, credible campaign, and made much of Bonner’s TARP vote. It didn’t matter. Bonner easily won the GOP nod with something like 75% of the vote.
I have no personal beef with Bonner. When the 2012 primary comes, I’ll probably vote on the GOP side, because – for so many offices – the GOP nominees are virtually guaranteed to win the general election. Given that both challengers are trying to run to Bonner’s right, I’ll probably cast a reluctant vote to send Jo back to D.C. for another two years.
If recent history is any indication, the Democrats won’t even bother to put up a challenger for Bonner’s seat. I’d love to be wrong on this one. There are few things more disheartening than going to vote in November and finding that many of the offices are uncontested. It makes you wonder whether you really live in a democracy.