Rep. Mike Rogers (R)
Alabama 3rd District
Forty years ago, Lineville, Alabama, in the red hills of Clay County, was Ku Klux Klan country, with whites determined to resist race-mixing and blacks under constant threat of violence. More recently in Lineville, integrated crowds regularly cheer mixed black and white high school teams, and people of all races work together, though they tend to pray separately on Sundays. Lineville’s progress perhaps echoes that of America’s most integrated institution, the military, for the small town produced more men and women per capita for Operation Desert Storm than any other community in the nation. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Alabama was the nation’s top contributor of National Guard personnel. Clay County has one of the highest concentrations of Guard enlistments and reservists in the state.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Alabama is centered geographically and philosophically in Lineville. The military presence is unmistakable: Calhoun County is home to the Anniston Army Depot and formerly home to Fort McClellan, which closed in 1999. Horseshoe Bend is where Andrew Jackson won a climactic battle against the Upper Creek Indians. Fort Mitchell, a 19th-century frontier military outpost, is the site of a national military cemetery sometimes referred to as the “Arlington of the South.” Phenix City, across the Chattahoochie River from Georgia’s Fort Benning, served as a “sin city” in the 1940s and 1950s, with virtually every imaginable vice for pleasure-seeking soldiers, a place so sleazy that Gen. George Patton threatened to level it with his tanks. Today, the huge military installation plays a more constructive role in the local economy. There are other places of distinction in the district: Tuskegee is the home of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, the training ground for the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots trained to fly for the U.S. military. Auburn is the home of Auburn University and its renowned sports teams and veterinary school. Talladega is the site of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, which is perhaps America’s most user-friendly city for the disabled. NASCAR fans know it as the home of a famed speedway and for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame—the Cooperstown of auto racing. This looks and feels like rural country, though few people here make a living off their farms. Rather, they work at Tyson Foods or Wal-Mart or in dozens of small or medium-sized factories. An economy once dependent on cotton mills is more diverse, and interstates have brought in new businesses, including a huge Honda assembly plant in Talladega County, where good wages boosted local personal income by 22% in the three years after it opened. In Montgomery, state government is the largest employer.
Politically, this was long one of the heartlands of the Democratic Party, the home of conservative white Democrats who are patriotic supporters of the military and cautious supporters of some domestic programs. There is also a large population of African-American descendants of slaves from plantations. But the area has become Republican, except for Tuskegee’s Macon County and portions of Montgomery County added by the 2002 redistricting in an attempt by Democrats to make this district competitive. Democrats have remained competitive in some state elections. George Bush won 52% here in 2000, and 58% in 2004. Barack Obama increased the black turnout, but John McCain won 56% here in 2008.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: July 16, 1958, Hammond, IN .
Education: Jacksonville St. U., B.A. 1981, M.P.A. 1984, Birmingham Schl. of Law, J.D. 1991.
Family: Married (Beth); 3 children.
Elected office: Calhoun Cnty. Commission, 1986-90; AL House of Reps., 1994-2002, Min. ldr., 1998-2000.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1991-2002.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Mike Rogers, a Republican elected in 2002. He is a fifth-generation resident of Calhoun County who, at the age of 28 in 1986, was the first Republican elected to the county commission. In 1994, he won a seat in the Alabama House, and in his second term he became minority leader. In 2002, after Republican Bob Riley gave up the 3rd District seat to run for governor, Rogers easily won the GOP nomination to succeed him. But in the general election, he had stiff competition from Democrat Joe Turnham Jr., who served three years as state party chairman and challenged Riley unsuccessfully in 1998. Turnham and Rogers tried to “out-bubba” each other, with Turnham calling for a congressional auto racing caucus and demanding that Rogers prove he had hunting and fishing licenses. Rogers touted his working-class values and support from the National Rifle Association. He also emphasized his opposition to abortion rights and support for a constitutional amendment for prayer in the public schools. Though both national parties targeted the district, Turnham did not risk bringing in national Democrats to campaign for him in this socially conservative district, while Rogers got frequent visits from national Republican leaders. Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois promised him a seat on the Armed Services Committee. The contrast in national party support was evident in Rogers’s big fundraising advantage. Still, Rogers won by only 50%-48%. He did well in his base, Calhoun County, where he got 60% of the vote. In contrast, Turnham lost Lee County, his home, by 52%-46%, and carried the district’s portion of Montgomery County by only 57%-42%.
|Mike Rogers (R)||150,819||(53%)||($2,056,912)|
|Joshua Segall (D)||131,299||(46%)||($1,089,890)|
|Mike Rogers (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (59%), 2004 (61%), 2002 (50%)
Rogers is one of two Republicans of the same name in the House; the other is from the 8th District of Michigan. Alabama’s Mike Rogers has a conservative voting record, though he is more centrist on economic issues. He bucked the Bush administration and won local praise by opposing the free-trade agreement with Morocco on the grounds that it would reduce local textile and apparel jobs. On the Armed Services Committee, he won House passage of a bill to ensure that universities provide access to their facilities for military recruiters and ROTC personnel. As chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, Rogers spotlighted in 2005 the defective equipment in a $239 million camera system installed on the borders with Mexico and Canada. He also secured $47 million for an Anniston-based consortium that develops antiterrorism training for emergency responders. In 2008, he added a provision to the defense bill that required the Pentagon to move toward buying only American-bred dogs for bomb-sniffing and related tasks. On the farm bill in 2007, he passed an amendment to require arbitration to settle conflicts between poultry growers and the companies to which they sell.
In this ancestrally Democratic district, Rogers has worked hard to entrench himself and raise money to discourage strong Democratic opposition. In his first two re-election campaigns, his Democratic challengers were inadequately funded and never posed serious threats. But in 2008, Rogers faced a serious contest with Josh Segall, a 29-year-old Montgomery bankruptcy lawyer who stuck with Democratic doctrine on most issues except gay rights and gun control, spent over $1 million, and had the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He attacked Rogers for backing the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, and also accused him of harming the local textile industry with his support of the Central America Free Trade Agreement. Rogers attacked Segall for his “Hollywood and New York” campaign contributions, and his liberal views that “don’t reflect east Alabama’s conservative values.” Segall took Montgomery County 62%-38% and three nearby counties, but Rogers won 53%-47% overall. The outcome invites a possible serious challenge to Rogers in 2010.