Spencer Bachus started his day at Birmingham TV station WBRC. He was there to talk about the looming federal government shutdown, but first offered a message to his constituents.
“It has been my greatest privilege to serve as their congressman for really the last 20-and-a-half years. And Linda and I and our family…we’ve made the decision that I won’t seek re-election,” Bachus said.
In a statement, Bachus talked about his wife, Linda’s, support, and added that it’s an appropriate time to announce his decision and let others have the opportunity to serve.
While the announcement caught many by surprise, some see it as a part of a shifting political landscape in Alabama.
Bachus is in his eleventh term representing much of suburban Birmingham. He’s chair of the House Financial Services Committee and the senior member of Alabama’s Congressional delegation. Many Republicans praised Bachus for his leadership and dedication.
“Congressman Bachus has done an extremely good job. He’s very approachable. He represents that district well,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
While Bachus has served as chair of the Alabama Republican Party, he’s considered a moderate. Former University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart says Bachus is conservative, but not a firebrand.
“He has never, at least in my memory, engaged in the rhetoric of the real right wing, in terms of we don’t want gun control, certainly we don’t want gay marriage, we certainly don’t want abortion and various other hot button issues,” said Stewart.
Moderates like Bachus face increasing pressure from those further right. Last year, he defeated a primary challenge from Tea Party-backed candidates but spent $1.6 million dollars to do it. There were rumblings he would be targeted again. Stewart says the prospect of another fight probably influenced Bachus’ decision.
“I don’t know that he would particularly enjoy a very competitive primary against perhaps multiple challengers,” said Stewart.
Republicans may be reacting most to Bachus’ decision, but Governor Robert Bentley says the move could have wider implications for Alabama as it relates to Washington.
“I think that does hurt us some as seniority is concerned especially in the House where we have the majority,” Bentley said.
Political scientist William Stewart says Bachus’ announcement comes after Mobile Congressman Jo Bonner resigned from Congress this summer. So Alabama will now depend more on its two senators for influence as opposed to its relatively young Congressional delegation.
Bachus says he’ll serve the remainder of his term but that hasn’t stopped people from floating names of potential candidates for the seat. Next year’s Republican primary in Alabama’s sixth congressional district was expected to be a hot contest. But now it won’t include the name Spencer Bachus.
~ Andrew Yeager, Sept. 30, 2013