By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—An unexpected battle is brewing in Senate District 11 as veteran republican lawmaker, Rep. Jim McClendon,(R-Springville), takes on newly-minted GOP Senator Jerry Fielding (R-Sylacauga). But if early campaign contributions are an indication of the final results, this will not be a heated conflict but a bang and then a whimper.
In what might be called a “July Massacre”, McClendon out-raised Field 10-to-1 in campaign contributions. According to the secretary of state filings McClendon raised $76,130.00 in July with Fielding bringing in only $7,000.00. The FCPA reports show that Fielding has $14,180.92 in cash on hand while McClendon has $156,956.89.
McClendon said that he was pleased with his “widespread grass roots support,” but was not surprised that “the voters in the most conservative senate district in Alabama are turning to and supporting the tried-and-true conservative candidate.”
McClendon has served in the state legislature as a republican state representative since 2002, while Fielding is a recently converted republican, switching from the Democratic Party after almost 30 years.
Fielding, who won his seat in the state senate as a democrat in 2012, jumped to the republican supermajority in October of 2012. At the time, Fielding said he was not “leaving the Democrat caucus with any ill will…”, but said that he felt the national Democratic Party was going “further and further to the left.” In fact Fielding’s 2010 race for the senate was one of the most costly for the republicans in which Fielding, with the aid of democrat political action committees, raised over $600,000 to defeat republican Ray Robbins. Two years later, Fielding joined the ranks of those he once opposed drawing ire from many who had been his closes supporters.
Judge Mark Kennedy, who was then chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, said of Fielding’s leaving the party, “This has everything to do with… the fact that Jerry Fielding was targeted for elimination by the Republican supermajority unless he switched parties.” Fielding changed parties after the new redistricting maps were signed into law. He voted against both the House and Senate maps.
Fielding’s former colleague, Kennedy, did not give him a pass on this fact either saying, “”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.”
Kennedy had earlier said that Fielding was also promised a major committee assignment if he switch parties, “[He] was promised a position as Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee if he switched parties.”
In fact, Fielding at a press conference denied Kennedy’s claim only to be elevated to Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee a few days later.
“Jerry Fielding’s first act as a Republican Senator was to stand in front of a room full of people and lie,” said Kennedy referring to Fielding’s denial of the promised chairmanship.
McClendon said of his history as an individual and legislator, “I have always run as a conservative, been elected as a conservative, and voted as a conservative. My voting record in the House clearly reflects unchanging core values.”
Fundraisers in Montgomery and in St. Clair County—the conservative stronghold in District 11—have yielded few contributions for Fielding. McClendon, a native of St. Clair County, who has served as Chairman of the House Health Committee, the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, the Government Relations Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on State Government, the Hospital Committee of the State Health Coordinating Council and the Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission has received widespread support in District 11 and in Montgomery.
The reapportioned Senate District 11 includes: St. Clair County: Springville, Margaret, Odenville, Argo, Moody, Wattsville, Cropwell, Riverside. Talladega County: Talladega, Waldo, Sycamore, Sylacauga, Fayetteville, Talladega Springs. Shelby County: Wilsonville, Shelby, Columbiana and Alabaster.