Senator Jerry Fielding will leave the Democrat Party later this week to become a Republican. Fielding is a long-time Democrat who was elected to the Alabama Senate in 2010 after previously serving as a District Judge. He was one of the few bright spots for the Democrats in the 2010 cycle that swept Republicans into power in almost every corner of the state.
Fielding represents Senate District 11 which contains portions of Calhoun, Coosa, Elmore and Talladega counties and currently includes large swaths of Democrat voters.
Republican Representative Jim McClendon has already been making plans to challenge Fielding in the 2014 election. It looks like he will now be doing it in the primary rather than the general. McClendon appears to be better positioned under the new District maps but will still have a tough race on his hands against a well-known incumbent.
From a legislative perspective, Fielding could potentially provide the Senate Republicans with an important vote. There was concern among some on the 7th floor that the Senate GOP could have trouble on tough votes because they will lose their filibuster-proof super majority when Senator Ben Brooks steps down. Insiders say that Fielding has pledged his unwavering support to the Senate GOP caucus.
Another thing to keep an eye on is where the money will land during the 2014 cycle. If Fielding is fully on board with Senate leadership, will some dollars end up going his way that may have otherwise gone to McClendon? Fielding has traditionally relied on AEA and other Democrat-leaning interest groups to fund his political endeavors. Will his Party switch affect that as well?
The challenge for Fielding will ultimately be that he has been a Democrat his entire life and will now have to rely on Republican primary voters to keep him in office. Does two years as a Republican make up for decades as a Democrat? That will be for the voters in Senate District 11 to decide.