Who will be Alabama’s next 6th Congressional District representative?
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, set off a media firestorm yesterday when he announced that his 11th term in the U.S. House will be his last. Bachus has represented Alabama’s 6th District in Congress for over two decades. His impending departure will leave the the seat open for the first time in a generation.
The speculation about his potential successors has been hot-and-heavy over the last 24 hours. Here’s our take on who might jump in, and who will probably take a pass.
In alphabetical order:
Bill Armistead, ALGOP Chairman
The chairman of the Alabama Republican Party has denied any interest in Congress but has qualified each statement with “at this time.” Armistead served in the state senate from 1994-2002 before making an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor. He remains fairly well known within the 6th congressional district, but would probably have a hard time weathering the PR backlash that would come if he exited his role as state party chairman in the middle of an election cycle.
Scott Beason, State Senator
The conservative firebrand state senator isn’t necessarily a household name in the 6th district, but likely has the most name recognition of any state elected official in the area because of his primary challenge to Bachus in 2012. He is one of the favorites among the Tea Party.
Although Beason has said he is considering a congressional run, insiders say they will be surprised if he gives up his seat in the state senate to get into a chaotic primary.
Slade Blackwell, State Senator
Mountain Brook’s first-term state senator has the financial resources to at least partially self-fund a congressional run, and he’s a strong fundraiser on top of that thanks to his unmatched relationships in the Birmingham business community. Having three small children and a wife who is a successful Birmingham surgeon will likely be the key factors in his decision to run or not.
Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce
Canfield has one of the best jobs in state government heading up Alabama’s Commerce Department for Gov. Robert Bentley. He gets to fly around the world meeting with business leaders and selling the state. He’s a former state legislator, so he has experience running for elected office, but it’s hard to imagine him giving up his current job for a highly speculative run for Congress.
David Carrington, Jefferson County Commission President
Carrington’s Jefferson County Commission district includes Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, most of Homewood, and portions of Hoover, Irondale and Leeds. Although his tenure as Jefferson County Commission President has been largely viewed in a positive light, it’s hard to get away from the stench of Jefferson County bankruptcy and controversy.
In addition to his job on the commission, Carrington is the president of RacingUSA.com, a merchandising store for NASCAR — instant street cred with some GOP primary voters.
Paul DeMarco, State Representative
DeMarco is the closest thing we’ve got to a guaranteed candidate for Congress among current elected officials. He’s had his eye on the 6th District seat for a long, long time. He’s well known in his House district for attending just about every public event in the community. That has helped him deflect some of the perception that his ambition keeps him from carving out firm positions on issues in the legislature.
Steve French, Senior VP, Sterne Agee Public Finance
French was Mountain Brook’s state senator for over a decade before losing a primary challenge in 2010. He landed on his feet as Senior Vice President for Sterne Agee’s Public Finance wing. French has likely a considered a run for Congress, but the more likely scenario is that he runs for Rep. Paul DeMarco’s state house seat once DeMarco announces he’s shooting for a slot in D.C.
Chad Mathis, Orthopedic Surgeon
Dr. Mathis was planning a primary challenge to Bachus before he surprised everyone by announcing his retirement on Monday. He’s become more involved with local grassroots groups over the past year. School choice is one of his primary focus issues. D.C. insiders say he has also sought the support of conservative activist groups inside the Beltway.
Tony Petelos, Jefferson County Manager
The former state legislator and mayor of Hoover is one of the most popular political figures in the 6th District. Of anyone connected to Jefferson County, Petelos is most widely viewed as a leader and a problem solver. It’s unlikely he would pursue the congressional gig, but he would be a strong candidate if he did.
Rob Riley, Attorney
Gov. Bob Riley’s son was widely seen by insiders as one of the most powerful people in the state during his dad’s tenure on Goat Hill. Rob is a successful attorney with his own firm in Homewood. He has stayed extremely involved in state politics via the political action committees that have been the focus of legislative Republicans’ fundraising over the past two election cycles.
Rob has privately expressed interest in Congress in years past, and he has unique perspective on the demands of the job having experienced his dad’s tenure in the U.S. House as a college kid.
Cliff Sims, President & CEO, Yellowhammer Multimedia
Sims became a household name in the political scene in 2011 with the launch of the Yellowhammer Politics blog. He has since grown it into the full-blown Yellowhammer News operation, growing in an industry where most other companies are making layoffs. His close ties to both the business community and the conservative grassroots — not to mention his massive online platform and email database — could make him an interesting candidate.
But with no history running for office, it’s impossible to know if he could raise the money and turn his Yellowhammer following into campaign support.
Cam Ward, State Senator
If you had asked Ward last election cycle if he would like a shot at Congress, he would have probably said “absolutely.” A few years later, Ward is probably reluctant to give up his spot as a rising player in the state senate with a real shot at Attorney General in 2018. Ward also has a beautiful little girl, who has autism, who will undoubtedly play a role in his decision making process.
If Ward did run, he would be a formidable candidate, especially in Shelby Co., which is a big chunk of the 6th District.
Jack Williams, State Representative
Williams’ ties to Bachus’ office and his friendship with the retiring Congressman are well known. His son recently concluded an internship in Bachus’ D.C. office. Williams has publicly said that he views the open congressional seat as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is unlikely he would ultimately decide to leave his state house seat for a congressional run, but unlike many of the other potential candidates who have small children, Williams’ kids are older and he could make the decision to run unilaterally.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @Jeff_Poor