Rep. Parker Griffith (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Aug. 6, 1942, Shreveport, LA .
Education: LA St. U., B.A. 1966; LA St. U., M.D. 1970..
Family: Married (Virginia); 5 children.
Military career: VA Army Reserves, 1970-73.
Elected office: AL Sen., 2007-08.
Professional Career: Radiation oncologist, 1975-1992; small business owner, 1975-present.
The congressman from the 5th District is Parker Griffith, a Democrat elected in 2008. After being in office less than a year, Griffith decided to switch parties and become a Republican in late December 2009. He had been increasingly concerned about his re-election prospects in a district that has been trending to the GOP in recent years. Although he voted against the House Democrats’ health care reform bill, he faced angry opponents of the bill during the August congressional recess. And, his former seat in the state Legislature was captured by a Republican. Griffith is the first incumbent Democrat in the House to switch parties since Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., in 2004.
|Parker Griffith (D)||156,642||(51%)||($1,786,989)|
|Wayne Parker (R)||147,314||(48%)||($1,276,538)|
|Parker Griffith (D)||34,543||(90%)|
|David Maker (D)||3,874||(10%)|
Griffith graduated from Louisiana State University’s medical school in 1970 and became a radiation oncologist in northern Alabama. He practiced medicine at Huntsville Hospital and later founded a cancer treatment center. Griffith retired from medicine in 1992 and undertook several business projects. He also founded the Parker Griffith Family Foundation, which provides grants to local schools and other community organizations.
In 2004, Griffith ran for mayor of Huntsville, citing a decline in population and a lack of vision for the city. In a nonpartisan race, he forced incumbent Loretta Spencer into a runoff but lost by about 4,000 votes. Griffith ran for the state Senate two years later. He spent $400,000 of personal money, focused his campaign on providing better health insurance, and defeated attorney and Republican nominee Cheryl Guthrie. In the state Senate, Griffith sponsored a bill to establish a statewide trauma center, which passed in 2007.
When nine-term U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, a Democrat, announced his retirement in March 2008, Griffith decided to run for the seat, and the Democratic Party quickly coalesced around his candidacy. He defeated a single opponent in the Democratic primary, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee helped him with $678,000 in media in the general election. His opponent was Wayne Parker, a businessman who had twice unsuccessfully challenged Cramer in the 1990s. Griffith entered the race with better name recognition and more cash on hand than Parker, who had endured a tougher primary.
But Parker ran a tough campaign. The race turned into one of the most bitterly fought in the nation. Parker raised questions about Griffith’s professional credentials by disclosing documents from a 1987 peer review that accused Griffith’s cancer center of underdosing patients with radiation to protract their treatment and collect more in fees. Griffith called Parker’s attacks “a total distortion of the facts,” and said the negative peer review was revenge by hospital officials unhappy that Griffith had opened a competing cancer treatment center. Griffith accused Parker of becoming a Washington lobbyist to trade on the influence of his father-in-law, former Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, at the height of Archer’s power as the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the late 1990s. He referred to Parker in ads as “the lobbyist.”
Griffith narrowly prevailed 52%-48%. Over 10,000 ballots cast in the 5th District failed to select a candidate in this race or voted for a write-in candidate, a trend that some analysts said reflected voters’ unhappiness with the campaign’s nasty tone.
In Washington, Griffith was given seats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Committee on Science and Technology, and the Small Business Committee.