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2012 Elections preview: Bachus and Bonner targeted in Alabama, Mississippi incumbents are more secure

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March 13, 2012

By Greg Janetka, Justin Haas and Stephan Burklin

Voters will head to the polls today in Alabama and Mississippi to select primary winners in 11 total U.S. House seats.

Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Central Time in both Alabama and Mississippi.


There are seven seats up for grabs in Alabama's 2012 congressional elections and a total of six opposed primaries. All seven incumbents are running for re-election, three of whom face a primary challenger.

If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, then a primary runoff is required by state law. The runoff is scheduled for April 24, 2012 if necessary.

Members of the U.S. House from Alabama -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 1 1
     Republican Party 6 6
Total 7 7

District 1

See also: Alabama's 1st Congressional District elections, 2012

Five-term representative Jo Bonner, who has cruised to re-election in recent years, is facing a Republican primary battle. Peter Gounares, Pete Riehm and Dean Young are all challenging Bonner in Tuesday's race. The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a Houston-based super PAC seeking to oust longtime incumbents of both parties in primaries, has been putting money into the race in an effort to unseat Bonner. Bonner, a moderate Republican, has been targeted by opponents for his support of the 2008 bank bailout and the 2011 debt ceiling hike. Influential conservative website RedState.com has also chimed in, saying Young is more conservative than Bonner, and calling Young "the only challenger who has spent some money and has gained any traction."

No Democratic candidates filed in this district, meaning the winner of the primary is all but assured of the general election win in November.

District 5

See also: Alabama's 5th Congressional District elections, 2012

First-term incumbent Mo Brooks (R) will once again face off against former congressman Parker Griffith in a Republican primary. The two first met in the 2010 primary with reversed roles, Griffith as the incumbent and Brooks as the challenger. Brooks, having won the primary, went on to win election in November. Now Griffith seeks a rematch.

District 6

See also: Alabama's 6th Congressional District elections, 2012

The boundaries of the 6th Congressional District were largely unchanged during redistricting. One of the most conservative districts in the country, the 6th is oddly shaped and surrounds nearly all of the city of Birmingham. Incumbent Spencer Bachus (R) has faced little competition for the seat over the last 20 years, but this year promises to be different.

Bachus, who has not faced a major party opponent in the general election since 1998, must first survive three Republican primary opponents. The biggest threat is from state Senator Scott Beason, a tea party favorite who authored Alabama's law targeting illegal immigration. Also in the race are Blount County Probate Judge David Standridge and pharmacy technician Al Mickle.

Bachus is considered vulnerable in the primary because he is currently under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for possible violations of insider-trading laws. Beason, however, has also been plagued by recent controversy. In the fall of 2011, he agreed to cooperate with the FBI and wear a recording device as part of a corruption investigation. During the operation Beason was recorded referring to African-Americans as "aborigines. While he apologized for the remark, the issue has remained in the headlines as the tape was played in federal court last month.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Primary Accountability has had their sights set on defeating Bachus. So far the group has spent more than $180,000 in the race. According to Beason this has helped to level the playing field, but has been only a fraction of the $1.5 million that Bachus has spent.

If no candidate is able to take over 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff. The Republican left standing will go on to face the winner of the Democratic primary, which is between school counselor and community activist Penny H. Bailey and attorney William Barnes.


In Mississippi, the contest for presidential delegates could yield unexpected outcomes, but the results of the congressional primaries should be much more predictable, political observers in the state say. While all four Magnolia State incumbents face a contested primary, they are expected to coast to victory.

In Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, Republican incumbent Alan Nunnelee is expected to fend off primary challengers fairly easily. Rep. Nunnelee's most formidable challenger, Eupora mayor Henry Ross, garnered 33 percent of the Republican primary vote for the same seat in 2010.

Bennie Thompson, the Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District, has been in office since 1993 and is likely to extend his tenure once again.

Republican incumbent Gregg Harper in the 3rd District is expected to triumph over Robert Allen, the founder of the Starkville TEA party.

In the 4th District, Rep. Steve Palazzo is favored to fend off primary challenges from non-profit CEO Cindy Burleson and retired engineer Ron Vincent.

Members of the U.S. House from Mississippi -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 1 1
     Republican Party 3 3
Total 4 4

See also