Campaign News
October 17, 2012

If money counts, no competitive congressional races in Alabama this fall

Challen Stephens   ·   ·  Link to Article

If money counts, no competitive congressional races in Alabama this fall

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 4:42 PM     Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 7:17 PM
mo.JPGCongressman Mo Brooks speaks at a town hall meeting at Alacare Home Health and Hospice in August, 2012, in Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville Times)

The odds are long for most Democrats in Alabama come November. So lopsided are congressional tilts across the state this year, Congressman Mo Brooks isn't even buying ads. And his race, financially speaking, is by far the closest congressional contest in Alabama.

Brooks' race with Charlie Holley, a minister turned first-time candidate, is the only race where a challenger has made headway in terms of financial support.

It's not that Holley is closing the gap. Brooks reported $800,000 by the end of September, roughly 17 times as much as Holley raised.

Instead, their race is the closest because across Alabama's 7 congressional districts, no Democratic challenger other than Holley has raised even a hundredth of the campaign support of the GOP incumbent.

robert aderholtRep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville
Martha Roby U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery

Democrats challenging U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, and U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, have not reported raising a single cent.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, has raised $916,000 to just $3,000 for Democratic challenger John Andrew Harris. And Harris put up most of that money himself.

U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, has no opponent in November, although he raised $1.1 million and already spent most of it.

On the Republican side, that leaves U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills. Democrat Penny "Colonel" Bailey, had raised over $24,000 as of the end of June. But Bachus gathered more than 100 times as much, reporting $2.6 million this election cycle. He still has $304,000 on hand.

The latest quarterly reports, showing activity through September, were due to the Federal Elections Commission on Monday and most were posted by the FEC as of this morning. But there was no updated disclosure report for Bailey.

TERRI SEWELLRep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham (The Birmingham News)

As for the other side of the aisle, Alabama's lone Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, also leads a lopsided race. Sewell has raised $1.1 million so far, and reported $454,000 left on hand last month. Her opponent, Republican Don Chamberlain, had raised $13,000 by the end of June, but had borrowed most of it and reported his campaign $12,000 in debt. There was no updated report for Chamberlain.

Just two years ago, Alabama congressional races saw strong candidates from both parties. Roby, a Montgomery city councilwoman, unseated Democratic Congressman Bobby Bright in southeast Alabama. Two years ago in Huntsville, Brooks won a tough race against Democratic candidate Steve Raby.

In Huntsville this year, Holley has raised more than $45,000. He received $5,000 from Communications Workers of America and $5,000 from the plumbers and pipefitters union. He also went into his own pocket for about $11,000 of his total. His individual contributions include $200 from retired judge Laura Hamilton and $300 from lawyer Barry Abston.

"I know it just doesn't seem like I have much funds at all," said Holley. "But races are not won based on funds, they are won based on votes and we are going to get out there and pound the pavement."

charlie holleyCharlie Holley, the Democratic candidate for Congress facing Rep. Mo Brooks (Huntsville Times)

Meanwhile, Brooks is coasting on $800,000 in contributions, with money pouring in from colleagues in Congress, from conservative political groups, from vast energy companies and Huntsville-based defense firms. The list ranges from General Electric to Raytheon to the National Rifle Association.

While just over half of his support comes from political action committees, he's not without backing from local voters, as the vast majority of his hundreds of individual contributions include an address within the district.

Brooks' individual supporters include many of Huntsville's more prominent names, including developer Louis Breland, Davidson Technologies chairman Julian Davidson, Huntsville businessman Ray Jones, Dese CEO Wally Kirkpatrick, attorney Mark McDaniel, Guy Spencer of Spencer Oil and businessman William Propst.

Yet Brooks, ever running as a fiscal conservative, hasn't even spent half of what he raised. He has $417,000 in the bank. And what he has spent came far earlier in the election cycle when he was fending off former Congressman Parker Griffith during the GOP primary. Brooks spent more than $100,000 on TV ads then and more than $20,000 on radio spots.

But since June, Brooks' campaign has spent just $21,884. And none of that has gone to television or radio ads. Instead, he's paid for cell phones, travel, postage and ordinary campaign expenses

Meanwhile, Holley has spent nearly everything, ending September with just $3,300 left to compete.

"Mo is just sitting back and counting the days," said Holley. "He's expecting to just walk back to Washington. I sincerely believe there's going to be a big, big shock."

Brooks could not be reached for this report. Officials with the Alabama Republican and Alabama Democratic parties had no immediate comment.

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