Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Ala., will announce Tuesday afternoon that he's switching parties and becoming a Republican, a GOP source familiar with the decision who didn't want to preempt the announcement tells Salon. A first-term congressman, Griffith represents a district that's trended more and more conservative in recent years but hasn't been represented by a Republican since shortly after the Civil War.
Griffith is a doctor, and he's expected to cite his differences with Democrats over healthcare reform as a major issue in his move. But politics likely played a major role as well.
The congressman won 52 percent of the vote in a 2008 race for the seat, which was open as a result of Democrat Bud Cramer's retirement. But the district went to John McCain in the presidential election; the Republican got 61 percent of the vote to Barack Obama's 38 percent. President Bush got 60 percent of the district's residents in 2004. With numbers like that working against him, Griffith was seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic members of Congress next year, even though he'd been voting against his party on major issues since being sworn in.
Republicans remain 40 seats away from taking back the House.
Politico's Josh Kraushaar, who was the first to report Griffith's decision, noted that the congressman already has more than $600,000 in the bank for his race next year, and at least $14,000 of it came from House Democratic leaders.