Parker Griffith Contributed to Howard Dean

As Charles noted earlier today, conservative Democratic Congressman Parker Griffith of Alabama has switched parties to run for reelection as a Republican. That came as news to the Republican who already in the race -- and not getting out. What also might come as news to this Republican was Griffith's contribution to Howard Dean.

In his announcement on switching parties to become a Republican, Rep. Parker Griffith touted his long-standing conservative bona fides, saying he had to become a Republican to stand up for his core beliefs.

But just five years ago, Griffith donated $1,500 to the presidential campaign of liberal icon Howard Dean -- with one donation coming when Dean's campaign was already faltering in February 2004.

I'm sure the conservative Republican primary electorate in Alabama's fifth congressional district are going to love supporting a former Democrat who not all that long ago was contributing to Howard Dean. Perhaps making the jump from the Democratic Party to the GOP wasn't the wisest political move for Griffith...

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Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

A Blue Dog no more. Congressman Parker Griffith has switched his political party affiliation and has joined the minority. It's that latter part that is unusual. While politicians switch parties with a relative frequency, the move is generally one from the minority party to the majority party, and not the inverse. Rep. Griffith is serving his first term in Congress and represents the Alabama Fifth Congressional District that stretches across the northern swath of the state and includes Huntsville. The district has long been a Democratic one. It was last in Republican hands during Reconstruction and a Democrat has held the seat since 1869 apart for a two year hiatus when Albert Taylor Goodwyn, a Populist, held the seat from 1896-1897.

Rep. Griffith, a medical doctor by profession, voted against the economic recovery package, the federal budget, health care reform, the cap and trade energy policy, the financial regulatory reform and even against Ledbetter Gender Pay Equality Act. The story in Politico:

Griffith's party switch comes on the eve of a pivotal congressional health care vote and will send a jolt through a Democratic House Caucus that has already been unnerved by the recent retirements of a handful of members who, like Griffith, hail from districts that offer prime pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2010.

The switch represents a coup for the House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized the Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls during the summer.

Griffith, who captured the seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties--and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject.

While the timing of his announcement was unexpected, Griffith's party switch will not come as a surprise to those familiar with his voting record, which is one of the most conservative among Democrats.

He has bucked the Democratic leadership on nearly all of its major domestic initiatives, including the stimulus package, health care legislation, the cap-and trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.

He was one of only 11 House Democrats to vote against the stimulus.

"Look at his voting record - he's had substantial differences philosophically with the Democratic agenda here in Congress," said an Alabama ally who is familiar with Griffith's decision. "It's something that's been discussed for the last several months... talking to people in his family. And it genuinely is a reflection of where he feels. It's his own personal conviction."

The move negates the gain in the NY-23. It also reflects a broad realignment of political forces and a deepening regional polarization that is taking place. Matt Yglesias also makes a key point over at Think Progress noting that "the Democrats' current huge majority with 257 members isn't remotely sustainable."

To get a majority that big you need to win a lot of districts you just can't reliable win. Substantial losses in 2010 and/or 2012 are basically inevitable. That said, there are still a few GOP-held House seats that could plausibly be won by a reliably liberal Democrat. The real issue is whether the Democratic majority can add a few seats like that, and contain losses enough to maintain 220-230 reasonably reliable votes and thus the effective ability to govern.

I wrote the other day that I expected a Jacksonian reaction against the Party. This counts as part of that reaction.

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Rep. Barton Gordon of Tennessee to Retire

Blue Dog Congressman Barton "Bart" Gordon who represents the Sixth Congressional District in Tennessee that covers the north-central part of the state including some Nashville suburbs has decided to retire. Rep. Gordon has represented the TN-06 since 1985 succeeding Al Gore. The district has long been a Democratic one - only two Republicans have ever held the seat - and was once represented by former President James K. Polk.

The story in The Hill:

Democratic retirements are beginning to mount, after the announcement Monday that Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) will not seek reelection next year.

Gordon said in a statement that, after a quarter-century in Congress, it's time to retire.

"Every decision I have made in Congress has been with their best interests in mind," he said. "I hope the people here at home feel that I have served them as well as their good advice and views have served me.

"When I was elected, I was the youngest member of the Tennessee congressional delegation; now, I'm one of the oldest. In fact, I have members of my staff who weren't even born when I took office. That tells me it's time for a new chapter."

Rep. Gordon becomes the fourth Democrat to call it quits.  Congressmen Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Brian Baird (D-Wash.) had previously announced their retirement in recent weeks.

Additionally, Congressman Neil Abercrombie who represents the First Congressional District in Hawaii announced Friday that he will resign early to run for governor. A special election will be held to fill the remainder of Rep. Abercrombie's term. More on this story from Politico.

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Blue Dog John Tanner of Tennessee to Retire

Congressman John Tanner, who represents the Tennessee Eighth Congressional District  in the northwestern corner of the Volunteer state, is set to announce his retirement according to the National Journal. Rep. Tanner is serving his 11th term in office.

Rep. Tanner becomes the second Democrat and second Blue Dogs to announce his retirement in the past ten days, following Rep. Dennis Moore's (D-KS) decision last month to step down. Both men represent districts that voted heavily for President Bush twice. In the 2008 elections, the TN-08 gave Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) a 56%-43% margin, while Moore's Kansas City-based seat gave President Obama a narrow 51%-48% margin.

Rep. Tanner faced his toughest race in years from Stephen Fincher, a farmer and gospel singer.

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Rewarding good behavior:Marion Berry and Vic Snyder

As the name suggests, I'm from Arkansas, and lately that hasn't been a very fun fact.  Between the corrupt Mike Ross, and Blanche Lincoln's corporate cowering, I haven't had much reason to be proud of my representatives.  Now though, that's changed a bit, thanks to Congressmen Berry's and Snyder's yes votes on healthcare reform.

Now, neither of these two are progressives by any stretch.  Snyder is the most liberal member of our delegation to be sure, but that doesn't mean much.  Berry is a Blue Dog.  But the two of them stuck their necks out for all of us on this vote, and now I'd like us to show them that we'll have their backs when they do that in the future.

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