By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Democratic Party Chairman, Mark Kennedy said on Monday that Democratic State Senator, Jerry Fielding (D) from Sylacauga, will switch parties and caucus with the Republican supermajority. Kennedy said that Senator Fielding’s announcement is expected on Tuesday.
Chairman Kennedy said, “I’ve known Jerry Fielding for more than 20 years, and I’ve never known him to be anything but a man of principle and a good Democrat. I find it hard to believe that Jerry would turn his back on his Party and the people who have elected him time and time again. While the matter of choosing a political party is a personal prerogative, it is disingenuous and unfair to voters for officials to unexpectedly announce a party switch halfway through the term they were elected to serve.”
Chairman Kennedy added, “I have a pretty good idea of what Jerry Fielding intends to tell the voters tomorrow. He’ll say he’s not leaving the Democratic Party—the Democratic Party left him, or some other tired cliché. The bottom line is that Jerry Fielding buckled under the pressure of the Republican supermajority that is out to drive every white Democrat out of office. The redistricting plan passed by the Republican supermajority is intended to make white Democrats in the legislature extinct, and Jerry Fielding must have decided that serving part time in the legislature is more important to him than principle or the Party that has had his back for almost 30 years.”
The first term State Senator is unlikely to be elected without a serious Republican Primary opponent.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked State Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville in July 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%.”
In July, state Senator Beason (R) from Gardendale told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’, “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.
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.
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.
“I’ll be interested to see who the Republicans run against Jerry in the 2014 Primary Election,” said Kennedy. “I can guarantee you that whatever promises the Republicans have made to Senator Fielding won’t hold up.”
In July we asked Alabama Republican Party Communications Director Shana Kluck about persistent reports that Fielding was being courted by the Alabama Republican Party. 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.”
Fielding represents parts of Calhoun, Coosa, Elmore, and Talladega counties. Before being elected to the Senate as a Democrat, Senator Fielding served for 26 years as a District and Circuit Court Judge. Fielding was first appointed by Democratic Governor George Wallace and won re-election and served for almost three decades on the bench as a Democrat.