Freshman Democratic House member Parker Griffith of Alabama is switching to the Republican Party, his office said Tuesday, another blow to Democrats facing a potentially tough midterm election.
Griffith, 67, was narrowly elected last year from a region of northern Alabama that includes Huntsville and Decatur. President Barack Obama lost the district badly to Republican John McCain.
Griffith, a radiation oncologist, had accumulated one of the most conservative voting records of any House Democrat. He was one of seven Democrats to oppose Obama's economic stimulus measure early this year.
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He was one of 39 House Democrats who voted against a major healthcare bill that narrowly passed. He also voted against an anti-global warming bill pushed strongly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Democrats will hold 257 House seats to the GOP's 178 after Griffith's switch.
Several veteran House moderates have announced their retirements next year, giving Republicans hopes of picking up a significant number of seats in the November elections.
Jim Spearman, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the switch "shouldn't come as a surprise" with the way Griffith voted.
"We will be working strongly to put a Democrat in there," Spearman said.
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