Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman congressman who formerly figured among the famous “Blue Dog” Democrats in Congress, has reportedly decided to defect to the GOP after breaking with his party over health care reform. This shift in the Democratic ranks could spell trouble for the 2010 election, especially if Rep. Griffith’s switchover inspires others to follow suit. —KA
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.