By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
State House Member Jim McClendon (R) from Springville spoke at a meeting of the Moody Chamber of Commerce Thursday on redistricting.
Rep. McClendon said that following redistricting the new Senate District 11, “leans in the Republican direction.”
With 51% of the residents of District 11 living in St. Clair County, the St. Clair County Republican told the group of local business leaders, “We have a good chance of having a state senator that lives in the county.” McClendon said that St. Clair County has not been represented in the Senate by anyone who actually lived in St. Clair County, “in my lifetime……maybe not in the history of the state.”
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked Rep. McClendon if he was running for the redrawn District 11 that now included much of his St. Clair and Shelby County House District. Rep. McClendon said, “It has been sort of interesting that since this has been done I have had quite a few people who have contacted me and given me encouragement to go in that direction. I am talking to members of my family about it and am talking to my friends and supporters.”
Rep. McClendon did acknowledge, “I am interested in it. “I would be honored if that came about.”
Prominent Moody area businessman and Republican Party member Randy Smith told the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ that if McClendon runs for State the Senate, “I will be backing him 100%.”
Senate District 11 is currently held by Senator Jerry Fielding (D) from Sylacauga.
One consequence of the legislative redistricting in Alabama following the 2010 census is that Senate District 11 appears to be more Republican leaning that it was in 2010 when Fielding narrowly beat Republican challenger Ray Robbins for the open seat. Fielding raised $215,000 more than Robbins did for the seat which was vacated by the retirement of conservative incumbent Jim Preuitt (who was elected several times as a Democrat but finished his lengthy Senate career as a Republican).
Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that his Senate District “had gotten very overpopulated,” due to Residential growth during the 2000s and had to be downsized so that it’s population was equivalent to the other Senate Districts. That downsizing left the St. Clair County towns of Springville, Moody, Odenville, and Margaret out of Beason’s district.
Similarly Sen. Del Marsh’s (R) from Anniston district gave up Pell City and Riverside as it took over more of Calhoun County. Shelby County experienced a growth boom in the last decade that resulted in the county needing more Senate representation. The fast growing areas of St. Clair and Shelby County were then moved to the 11th district which gave up Calhoun, Coosa, and Elmore Counties. The newly redrawn eleventh District is composed of Springville, Argo, Odenville, Margaret, Moody, a portion of Leeds, Cook Springs, Pell City, Riverside, Cropwell, Alpine, a portion of Talladega, Sylacauga, Wilsonville, Columbiana, and the eastern edges of both Calera and Alabaster.
Those changes have led to Rep. McClendon and Senator Fielding being in the same district. The largest population in the new district is now from St. Clair County. 76,000 of the new district’s residents live in St. Clair County, 41,000 residents are from Talladega County, and 25,000 reside in Shelby County.
If Fielding runs for reelection in 2014 it may not be as a Democrat. Unsubstantiated rumors reported at the political website, ‘Yellowhammer Politics’ stated that the Sylacauga Senator might be contemplating a jump to the Republican Party, which already enjoys a strong majority in the Alabama State Senate.
Senator Beason said, “I would think the bottom line is that for anyone with conservative leanings it has gotten really hard to remain a Democrat after what has happened these last four years.” Sen. Beason acknowledged that he had discussed the matter with Sen. Fielding on more than one occasion. “It would be good for him and for us and for everybody.” Sen. Beason told us that he had no knowledge of whether or not Fielding has made that decision.
We asked Alabama Republican Party Communications Director Shana Kluck about those reports. In an email statement she said, “Over the past several months, the Alabama Republican Party been contacted by numerous Democrat elected officials who realize their party has become too liberal for them. However, we will not comment on specifics regarding those ongoing conversations.”
According to information at www.followthemoney.org most of Fielding’s 2010 contributions came from sources outside of the district: Huntsville $489,738, Montgomery $54,550, and Birmingham $18,350.
If Rep. McClendon gave up his House District 50 seat to run for the Alabama Senate it would create an opening in the House for the seat which will be comprised 100% of St. Clair County and is likely to be heavily contested in the 2014 Republican Primary.
Efforts to contact Senator Fielding for this article were unsuccessful.