One opponent had been rumored for weeks. The other came pretty much out of the blue.
But for now, U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Vestavia Hills) will face at least two opponents in the GOP primary election on March 13.
State Sen. Scott Beason confirmed the rumors Thursday morning, when he announced his candidacy at a press conference at Alabama GOP Headquarters in Homewood. Beason, known nationally for his sponsorship of Alabama's touch immigration law and for his testimony in the federal bingo corruption trial, was the subject of speculation after local residents began receiving automated telephone calls some weeks ago, asking who they would support in a Congressional race. About that same time, a "Draft Scott Beason for Congress" page appeared on Facebook.
Blount County Probate Judge David Standridge, who is also the president of the Blount Commission, is a somewhat unexpected entry into the fray, though. The Hayden resident sent a press release announcing his candidacy about the same time as Beason's press conference. He will make his official announcement Friday at 2 p.m. at the Blount County Courthouse in Oneonta.
The press release was a source of some confusion for a time, as it listed Standridge as running in the Fourth Congressional District, which meant he would face incumbent Robert Aderholt. Blount County and Hayden were in Aderholt's district during the last decade, but when district lines were redrawn by the Alabama Legislature in its most recent session, most of Blount was moved from the fourth to the sixth, where Bachus has served since 1992.
Both candidates are taking on an incumbent who wields considerable influence in Washington as the chairman of the powerful House Committee on Financial Services. Bachus attained that post when the House majority switched from Democrat to Republican in the 2010 election cycle; before that, he was the ranking minority member under the chairmanship of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
But Bachus has come under fire in recent months over allegations that he used inside information gained through his committee position to trade stocks and stock options. Those allegations came among many in the book, "Throw Them All Out" by author Peter Schweitzer. That story was further publicized by conservative Internet impressario Andrew Breitbart, as well as in a story on the CBS program "60 Minutes." Bachus has vehemently and repeatedly denied that he used inside information for trading, and has since stopped trading altogether.
Beason, seen as a rising star in Alabama Republican circles for the past few years, has his own political baggage as well. He was a primary sponsor of the state's new immigration law, widely reported as one of the toughest in the nation, with opponents of the law attempting to brand him as a racist. Beason himself added fuel to that fire when he wore a concealed recording device as part of the investigation of corruption in the state legislature's debate over legalized electronic bingo. During a transcript of the recordings enetered into evidence during the trial last year, Beason was heard in those recordings referring to the largely-black customer base of the Greenetrack greyhound track and bingo facility as "aborigines." He later apologized for that remark in a press conference in Gardendale. (Beason may be required to testify again the retrial of the case, and that testiminy may be scheduled during the campaign. No schedule has yet been set.)
Beason was stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee by GOP leadership in large part because of that remark.
Standridge is a relative unknown politically outside of his home county, and will face an uphill battle against Beason's name recognition and Bachus' campaign war chest, reported by several sources to be in excess of $1 million.
Bachus has not faced a contested primary since he was first elected. For the last four elections, he has run unopposed in the general election (Dr. Stan Cooke of Kimberly ran against him in the 2010 primary), and Democrats have not fielded a candidate since 1998. His last on-ballot opponent was J. Holden McAllister of the Libertarian Party in 2002. No Democratic opponents are expected this year, as the Sixth District is one of the most heavily-Republican districts in the country.
Candidates must file for the primary by 5 p.m. Friday.
This update corrects an earlier version, which stated that Beason's recording was played in open court. It was not, but a transcript was read. Beason said late Thursday that he has yet to hear the actual recordings. This update also adds Standridge's additional office of president of the Blount County Commission, and also adds Stan Cooke as a primary opponent to Bachus in 2010.