SPOTLIGHT

The Deep South’s Party-Switching Ex-Congressmen

Bright is the latest former Democrat to run for his old seat as a Republican.

A sign is seen in front of a Montgomery, Ala., home of a supporter of Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, a Democratic Party candidate for Congress in Alabama's 2nd District on Thursday, July 31, 2008. Bright said the signs went up in yards of Republicans who are supporting his effort to be the first Democrat to represent the district in 44 years.
AP Photo/Bob Johnson
Kyle Trygstad
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Kyle Trygstad
March 2, 2018, 8:52 a.m.

If former Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright’s decision to run for his old seat in Alabama as a Republican sounds familiar, it’s because a remarkably similar thing happened next door just four years ago.

Gene Taylor, who represented the Mississippi coast as a culturally conservative Democrat for two decades, lost his seat in the 2010 Republican wave to Steven Palazzo, then a state legislator. After years of declining to switch parties, Taylor challenged Palazzo in the 2014 Republican primary and explained his conversion to supporters on the trail by saying the Democratic Party had left him.

Taylor took 43 percent and held the congressman to under 51 percent in the primary, but that was just enough for Palazzo to secure the nomination and avoid a three-week, one-on-one runoff.

Bright, like Taylor, was a Blue Dog during his one term in Congress after a decade as a nonpartisan mayor of Montgomery and lost his seat in 2010. He has pointed out that the state’s Republican governor and senator—as well as President Trump—were at one point all Democrats. But while the circumstances are similar to the Mississippi race, the primary in Alabama’s 2nd District has a notable difference: Bright isn’t the only one in the primary whose Republican bonafides are being challenged.

State Rep. Barry Moore and Rich Hobson, who managed Roy Moore’s unsuccessful Senate special election campaign last year, have criticized Republican Rep. Martha Roby for calling on Trump to drop out of the 2016 election.

Kyle Trygstad

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