Taking Back the House, Vol. 5: Spencer Bachus and Alabama’s 6th District



This is the fifth edition of a research project at PoliticusUSA known as Taking Back the House. You can check out the previous edition here. The purpose of this project is to analyze each Republican Congressional district in the United States and see how likely the district can go ‘Blue.’ To do this, I will take a look at the overall demographics of the district, as well as review the historical voting patterns and the record of the Congressperson representing the district. This series will run until we’ve looked at every single district in the country, which should take us right into the 2014 campaign season.


Congressional District: Alabama 6th


U.S. Representative: Spencer Bachus


Population: 687,709


Median Household Income: $55,897 (National Average: $51,017)


Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (National Rate: 7.2%)

Gender: 51.2% Female, 48.8% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)


Age: 13.4% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)


Race: 80.8% White, 13.9% Black, 1.8% Asian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian)


Ethnicity: 94.5% Non-Hispanic, 5.5% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)


Urban/Rural Population Split: 69.2% Urban, 30.8% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)


District Voting Patterns: Bachus has represented the district since 1993. He defeated Democrat Ben Erdreich in a decently close election in 1992. Erdeich had previously been a very popular Congressman who had ran basically unopposed in 1990. However, in 1992, the 6th District was redrawn and most of the black residents were shifted to the 7th District. The 6th District was redrawn to represent most of the suburbs of Birmingham. Therefore, the district found itself far more white and wealthy than it had been in the past.


Since defeating Erdreich by 7 points, Bachus has easily won election ever since. He hasn’t had an opponent get within 40 points of him in any race. From 2004 to 2010, he ran completely unopposed. In 2012, Bachus did actually have a Democratic opponent, Penny H. Bailey. While he easily defeated her, 71-29, it represented the closest race he’s dealt with since first taking office. Bachus also saw Tea Party candidates oppose him in primary elections in both 2010 and 2012. On both occasions, he was able to easily defeat secure the Republican nomination.


As for Presidential elections, the district went for Mitt Romney in 2012 by nearly 47 points. In 2008, John McCain carried the district, 74-25.


Congressional Activity by Bachus: Bachus has served as Chair of several committees since entering office. Most recently, he was the Chair of the Financial Services Committee during the 112th Congress. He currently serves on both the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on the Judiciary. He is Chair of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commerical and Antitrust Law. Bachus was investigated for insider trading by the OCE in early 2012, but he was cleared in April 2012 and no ethics charges were filed against him.


Per OpenCongress, Bachus votes with the Republican Party 93% of the time. By most measures, he is considered a true establishment Republican, which is why he’s faced Tea Party primary challengers the last two elections. Per the National Journal, he was the 142nd most conservative member of Congress in 2012, and the 186th in 2011. He split with the party on the King Amendment in June 2013. The King Amendment would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing or funding the DREAM Act. Bachus voted against it, one of only 6 Republicans to do so. Bachus also did not vote against raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government on October 16th.


Recently, Bachus has been outspoken against the Tea Party and extreme wing of the Republican Party. He specifically blamed Sarah Palin and the Tea Party for the Republican Party’s inability to capture the Senate in 2010 by running unelectable candidates like Christine O’Donnell in winnable races. This brought the ire of many conservative pundits and organizations, as well as the Mama Grizzly herself. Bachus was the only Republican Representative from Alabama to vote to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling limit.


Notable Quotes by Bachus:


“The Senate would be Republican today except for states (in which Gov. Palin endorsed candidates) like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate.” – Made immediately after the mid-term elections on November 4th, 2010.


“I think it borders on treason. In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country.” – May 23, 2005 in response to comments made by Bill Maher on his show ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’. Maher had made a joke about the military missing its recruiting goals and now just going after ‘warm bodies’ and ‘low-hanging fruit.’


Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Somewhat low, but possible. Bachus announced on September 30th that he will not seek reelection in 2014. Therefore, a new Republican candidate will have to show up. Most likely, we will see a Tea Party candidate make it through the primary, as Bachus faced Tea Party challengers in the previous two primaries. This could create a slight opening if the Democrats can run a very strong candidate, most likely a moderate with somewhat socially conservative views.


The demographics of this district show that it is largely white and somewhat wealthy. The median income is higher than the nation at large, while the college graduation rate (32.9%) is the highest in the state. The district is mostly suburban, as the urban/rural split is higher than most of the other districts in Alabama. Overall, this is an upper-middle class white district that could potentially vote more moderate than severely conservative, and my reject a hard shift to the right.


Bachus, while definitely conservative, has also voted in a somewhat pragmatic way while in Congress. He’s kept his head low on the hot topic, socially conservative issues. He’s not been openly hostile to immigration reform and hasn’t gone along with the ‘Shut the Government Down’ crowd. And he’s been quite popular in his district. Is this district ready for a firebrand, far-right Tea Bagger who will seek out the spotlight and try to create way more harm than good in the House? That remains to be seen, of course. However, if a candidate that is more beholden to ideology and the Koch brothers makes it through the Republican primary, don’t be surprised to see this district switch Blue to stay clear of the crazy.


Justin is the Managing Editor and a Contributing Writer for Politicus Sports, PoliticusUSA’s very own sports site. You can check out the site here.

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