Alabama Democrat quits party over email
Alabama Democrats aren’t shedding any tears over state Rep. Richard Laird’s decision to leave the party this week.
Laird, of Roanoke in east Alabama, announced Monday that he was becoming an independent. On Friday, Democratic leaders rebuked Laird for sending an offensive email to legislators and constituents prior to his party switch.
On Jan. 23, Laird sent an email to a group of recipients that included House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, state Rep. Duwayne Bridges, R-Valley, and state Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison. Also copied on the email was Mellie Parrish of Lineville, a member of the Randolph County Democratic Party Executive Committee.
The message contained a picture of President Obama kissing Democratic U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi on the cheek, with a caption that read “The only time you’ll see a Muslim kiss a pig.” Obama is a Christian.
Parrish provided a copy of the email, saying she was “disgusted and shocked” by its contents.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said the message was “very distasteful.”
“Rep. Laird’s email was offensive and disrespectful to the office of the Presidency and the United States House of Representatives,” the House Minority Caucus said in a statement released Friday. “Had he not voluntarily left the Democratic Party and the House Democratic Caucus, he would have been asked to leave.”
Laird, 73, who has represented Chambers, Clay and Randolph counties as a Democrat since 1978, told the Associated Press that he may have forwarded the email but that he didn’t originate it.
He said he doesn’t like the policies of the president or Pelosi and that his disagreement with Democratic Party politics is the reason he became an independent.
“I’m leaving the party because I think it left me a long time ago,” Laird said when announcing his decision to become an independent.
Hubbard said he encouraged Laird to leave the Democratic Party and that he would caucus with the GOP in the state House. Laird joins state Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocumb as the only independents in the Legislature.
Alabama Democrats said Laird did the party a favor by leaving on his own accord.
“Laird jumped ship before I could throw him overboard. Enough said,” Alabama Democratic Party chairman Mark Kennedy said in a message posted on his Facebook page.
Party spokesman Bradley Davidson told the Anniston Star that Laird “has always been one of the most self-serving, squirrelly members of the party.”
Davidson said by “squirrelly” he meant that Laird’s past votes had been unpredictable, and that his departure would help Democrats rebuild in Alabama.