Officials: House Democrat Will Switch To GOP

POLITICO is reporting that Rep. Parker Griffith, a Blue Dog Democrat first elected in 2008 — when he succeeded fellow Blue Dog Bud Cramer (D), who retired — will announce today that he's switching to the Republican Party.

Here's more, as reported by Josh Kraushaar:

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 House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls over 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 all Democrats.

He has bucked Democratic leadership on nearly all of its major domestic initiatives, including the stimulus package, health care legislation, the cap-and trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.

He was one of only 11 House Democrats to vote against the stimulus.

Kraushaar writes that Griffith had sent signals about his dissatisfaction with the Dems during the summer:

In August—one month after Republicans picked up his former state legislative seat in a special election—he told a local newspaper that he wouldn't vote for Nancy Pelosi to remain as House Speaker because she's too divisive. He joked that if she didn't like it, he'd provide her with a gift certificate to a mental health center.

Griffith will make his announcement at 2 pm Eastern time in Huntsville, Ala. He is the first Capitol Hill lawmaker to switch parties since Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter left the Rs for the Ds in April.

Republicans have come close to winning Alabama's 5th District in the past. In 1994, the year the GOP captured the House for the first time in 40 years, Cramer managed just 50.5 percent of the vote against Republican Wayne Parker, a margin of fewer than 2,000 votes out of more than 170,000 cast. (Their 1996 rematch was not as close.) When Cramer retired in 2008, Parker ran again. His loss to Parker Griffith was by a 51-48 percent margin. (John McCain carried the 5th in a landslide over Barack Obama.)

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