North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

September 30, 2013

UPDATED: Spencer Bachus to retire from Congress; Beason undecided on running, Standridge will pass

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

— The longtime Congressional representative for suburban Jefferson County, and recently all of Blount County, will retire and not seek re-election.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, is in the midst of his 11th term representing the Sixth District. He announced Monday by an emailed statement, accompanied by a Twitter post, that this term will be his last.

“It has been the greatest privilege imaginable to serve as the representative of the people of Alabama in the United States House of Representatives,” Bachus said in his statement. “But as Ecclesiastes 3 says, to everything there is a season and I feel in my heart that now is the time for me to announce this decision and allow others to have the opportunity to serve.”

Bachus was elected to Congress in 1992. He ran against Democrat incumbent Ben Erdreich, after the Sixth District had been heavily reconfigured to meet a U.S. Justice Department mandate that Alabama have at least one district whose voting population was primarily African-American. The new district boundaries included the suburbs of Jefferson County plus Shelby County, areas that are traditionally conservative Republican.

The district boundaries were redrawn again after the 2010 U.S. Census, and Blount County was brought in.

After his first election, Bachus never faced serious opposition for re-election, and the Democrats did not even field a candidate from 2000 through 2010.

But that changed when Bachus became entangled in controversy over trading in stock and stock-index options while he was serving as chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, activity which was investigated by the television show “60 Minutes.” Bachus claimed that his trades were not a conflict of interest, because he did not use information gained by virtue of his position.

The Office of Congressional Ethics cleared Bachus of any wrongdoing, but the controversy made him politically vulnerable for the first time in his House career. After easily fending off a GOP primary challenge from Kimberly Church of God pastor Stan Cooke in 2010, Bachus ran into stiffer opposition in 2012 from State Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale and then-Blount County Commission President David Standridge of Hayden.

Bachus spent more than $1.5 million, by far the biggest campaign outlay in his career, and defeated Beason and Standridge with more than 60 percent of the vote. He then defeated Democratic challenger Penny Bailey by better than a 2-to-1 margin.

The announcement by Bachus came as a surprise to many within the state GOP apparatus, including Beason — who got the news from a neighbor as he was walking in his neighborhood Monday morning.

“I finished my walk and my phone was going like a window shade with text messages and phone calls whizzing by. The phone was just continually vibrating on the table,” Beason said.

“As far as making a decision about running for Congress, that’s something I had not been thinking about at all for a while. I am considering it — you’ve got to weigh your options. That’s kind of a part answer, but I just found out [about this]. It’s amazing — usually these things start leaking out ahead of time. But most people are surprised.”

Beason had no idea why his one-time opponent made the decision not to run again. “I have to give him credit for doing this in the right way. It’s give plenty of people who might be interested the opportunity to run. I wish him the best,” Beason added.

A host of other local GOP figures are possible candidates. Standridge will not be one of them; since losing the 2012 race against Bachus, he was voted to fill the state house’s 34th District seat in a special election.

Standridge was on his way to Montgomery to meet with Gov. Robert Bentley when he found out. "I was very surprised by the decision," he said. "I gave it some thought when I found out, and I've been receiving phone calls throughout the day, but right now I do not plan on running."

State Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills was also quoted in several reports Monday as saying he would not run.

Among the possible candidates:

The primary election is scheduled for June 3, 2014. A run-off election, which is likely in this race, would be on July 15.

UPDATED at 6:47 p.m. to reflect Standridge's comments that he does not plan to run for the open seat.