By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, now a Republican candidate for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, plans to defend his candidacy at an ALGOP meeting on Saturday after facing ballot access challenges accusing him of opportunistically switching parties.
Two complaints were recently filed against him, Bright says.
One of those complaints was filed by Houston County Commissioner Brandon Shoupe, alleging that Bright only wanted to run as a Republican because “he knows difficulty first-hand the difficulty of getting elected to Congress as a Democrat in the Second Congressional District,” according to a copy of the complaint Shoupe posted on Twitter last week.
Shoupe asked the ALGOP Candidate Committee to deny ballot access to Bright based on his previous membership in the Democratic Party.
“It essentially said I wasn’t Republican enough,” Bright said in an interview. “My question would be: ‘what’s the definition of being Republican enough?'”
Bright represented Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District for two years from 2008 to 2010 as a Democrat. During that time, though, he was one of the caucus’ most conservative members, according to GovTrack.us. After he lost his seat in the House to a Republican wave in 2010, Bright said he promised himself he would never run as a Democrat for a public office again, deciding the party had moved too far to the left, leaving Middle America behind.
On Thursday, Shoupe posted again on Twitter, this time saying that he had withdrawn the complaint.
“We have a lot of issues within the party in our 2nd district and have been convinced the best way forward is to allow the people to decide which direction we go, vs a small group of party insiders,” he wrote.
Hi Taylor. I withdrew the challenge earlier today. We have a lot of issues within the party in our 2nd district and have been convinced the best way forward is to allow the people to decide which direction we go, vs a small group of party insiders.
— Brandon Shoupe (@dbshoupe) February 23, 2018
Another complaint remains, Bright said, from a woman who is also challenging Bright’s ballot access based on his previous membership in the Democratic Party.
“Everything she says is not correct,” Bright said, declining to name the complainant. “It’s full of misstatements. It’s even untruths, quite frankly. It’s full of assumptions. I’ve learned over the years that you never assume anything. You need to verify.”
The Alabama Political Reporter has not independently reviewed the second complaint.
“I’m willing to sit down with her and the committee to try to answer all of their questions,” Bright said. “Many of the concerns are just not legitimate, but I take all of the complaints and challenges as seriously as I need to.”
Shoupe’s complaint said Bright “believes he can simply choose his party based on political expediency and not based on his political beliefs.” One point noted that Bright voted with the Democrats 75 percent of the time, citing OPenCongress.org, which is now GovTrack.us, a website that tracks elected officials voting records and policy viewpoints.
Bright was no liberal during his time in the U.S. Congress, going against his party several times on numerous key votes during his two-year tenure, one of the most active times for Congress in recent years when Democrats held majorities in both chambers and the presidency. During that time, Bright was the definition of a “Blue Dog” or conservative Democrat.
From voting no on the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act, the 2009 stimulus package, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and no on the 2010 effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Bright often angered his Democratic colleagues and drew the ire of Democratic activist groups, prompting many of them to take out ads against him.
Bright, a popular former Montgomery mayor, said he “thought he was doing something right” because he was being attacked from both sides during the 2010 election.
“You want to make the party better, you want to make the party stronger, and you hope you will have the influence to lead and guide them in the right direction,” Bright said. “But the national Democratic Party left us down here in the South and pushed too many extremely liberal positions I don’t agree with.”
And Bright wouldn’t be the first Democrat to jump ship and become a Republican in Alabama. Gov. Kay Ivey and Sen. Richard Shelby were once both Democrats, albeit they swapped parties decades ago. Attorney General Steve Marshall didn’t switch parties to become a Republican until 2011.
In the last few election cycles, Bright said he’s voted Republican.
After he left Washington, he turned to his wife on the trip home and said he’d never run for office again, especially as a Democrat. But after seeing the dysfunction in Washington, he said he’s ready to try again but with the GOP.
“I don’t need a job. I’m a farmer. God’s blessed me. I’ve had some good investments in my life, my wife and I both, and we’re happy,” Bright said. “But I need to be back in to try to correct some of the mess that we’ve gotten in to.”
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby won his seat in 2010 and has represented the 2nd Congressional District since then. Bright is now challenging Roby to a rematch, but this time in a hotly contested Republican primary. In 2016, nearly 11 percent of the votes cast were right-ins after many in the GOP wouldn’t vote for her because of her refusal to support then-candidate Donald Trump when the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released.
Trump carried her district 65-33 while she won by a 49-42 margin.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported Thursday that Roby’s campaign denied filing the complaint. Rich Hobson, another candidate for the nomination who was a top aide to former Chief Justice Roy Moore, state Rep. Barry Moore and Prattville businessman Tommy Amason all denied filing it, as well.
While Moore denied to the Advertiser that he filed the complaint, he said in an email sent to supporters last week that both Roby and Bright should be disqualified. The header of the email: “ALERT: DEMOCRATS RUNNING AS REPUBLICANS IN DISTRICT 2.” He said he wouldn’t personally challenge their ballot access, though.
Bright said he’s running against Roby because he wants to be a more effective representative, criticizing Roby for giving up her seat on the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees given the 2nd Congressional District’s reliance on its military bases and farming country.
Roby now serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, assignments which have less of an impact on her district, Bright said.
“I think Martha is a good person. I think each one of the guys that are running are good guys. They all intend to do good,” Bright said. “We don’t need just representation in Washington, though, we need strong, maximum representation. That’s not what we’re getting in District 2.”
The challenge will be considered at a meeting on Saturday in Montgomery. The Republican primary is June 5.