Millbrook AL (WTVY)-- While awaiting a face-to-face meeting with state Republican leaders Bobby Bright paced Montgomery’s Renaissance Hotel. Then he would sit only to pace again. It’s no wonder because he awaited a decision on whether his candidacy would survive.
Congressional candidate Bobby Bright sits with wife, Lynn, while awaiting a Republican Party hearing to determine if he would remain on ballot. Photo from February 24, 2018.
Bright, eight years after losing his congressional seat, decided recently to come out of retirement to get his old job back.
His plans hit a snag when at least two challenges seeking to remove him from the Republican ballot were filed with party leadership by those unhappy that, during his first and only term, Bright was a Democrat.
The Alabama Republican Executive Committee met in Montgomery with Bright and those opposing his candidacy. Afterwards Saturday, members ruled he can seek election under the GOP banner.
“I’m Republican, I’m conservative and now I’m paired up with the party that will take me to victory,” he said upon learning of the decision. Bright points out many others are Democrat turned Republican including U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.
Bright praised the committee calling members respectful and professional and saying he would have graciously abided by any decision. “They have a tough job and I know that.” He earlier discounted campaigning as an Independent had he been disqualified.
After losing to Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in 2010 Bright believed his political career had likely ended. His return, he says, is because thousands asked him to represent them again in Washington.
“It’s all about the people of Alabama and not about party,” Bright said.
In Alabama, though, it’s all about party. Of seven congressional districts, six are held by Republicans and the second district congressional seat sought by Bright has been under Republican control for decades.
Rewind to 2008. After 10 years as Montgomery mayor, a non-partisan position, Bright decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
He claims to have contacted Republican leaders who told him they would back another candidate. He opted to run as a Democrat.
In one of the most hotly- contested races in state history Bright won, defeating Republican nominee Jay Love. He served only a single two-year term on Capitol Hill.
Bright admits party affiliation cost him re-election in 2010. President Barack Obama was in the White House and then Speaker Nancy Pelosi in control of the House of Representatives. Both are Democrats and ties to them, perceived or real, got Bright narrowly defeated.
Political foes accuse him of voting pro-Democrat the bulk of the time. He doesn’t deny it but points out many of those votes involved legislative bills without controversy that members of both parties overwhelmingly supported.
Bright, a self-proclaimed Blue Dog Democrat (a conservative Democratic lawmaker from the South), said he was rated the number two most conservative member of the party in Congress.
As for the unsuccessful challenges seeking to remove him from the ballot, Bright believes they were orchestrated by opponents but does not suggest Roby is one.
Other candidates for the nomination include Iraqi War veteran Tommy Amason, Rich Hobson, former top aide to Roy Moore, and State Representative Barry Moore.
Barry Moore, from Enterprise, believes neither Bright nor Roby should be on the ballot---Bright because of his Democratic past and Roby for refusing to endorse Donald Trump for President in 2016.
While Bright scored a victory with the committee’s decision he may face an uphill battle. Roby is considered the frontrunner and, other than Bright, it’s been decades since an incumbent Congressman from the district lost.
At least, Bright said, he’s now able to focus on the campaign knowing he’ll be on the ballot. “I’m the comeback kid, that’s me.”
In other action, the executive committee allowed Melanie Boyd Hill to remain on the state school board ballot after a challenge to her candidacy was found without sufficient merit.
A spokesperson for the committee that labored into the night considering party matters said members had no comment on Bright or other challenges.