HOMEWOOD, Ala. — Alabama's senior congressmen, Spencer Bachus, drew opposition Thursday from a sponsor of Alabama's tough new immigration law, who said the Republican incumbent has become part of the Washington system and contributed to out-of-control spending.
State Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale said he will challenge Bachus in the Republican primary on March 13. Currently, there is no Democratic opponent, and Friday is the deadline to sign up to run in the heavily Republican district.
Speaking at Republican Party headquarters in Homewood, Beason said Bachus has spent nearly 20 years in Washington and become part of the problem.
"Washington is out of control," Beason said. "The sad part is that many Republicans are just as responsible for the problems as the Democrats. It is time for change in Washington."
The incumbent's office did not have an immediate comment.
Bachus, 64, of Birmingham, won election to the 6th District in 1992 by defeating five-term Democratic incumbent Ben Erdreich. Bachus has been re-elected every two years since without any close races.
Bachus' critics recently accused him of using nonpublic information from his job on Capitol Hill to make money on the stock market. He has denied the allegations. Beason said other issues, particularly spending, influenced his decision to run.
Beason, 42, was elected to the Alabama House in 1998 and won re-election in 2002. In 2006, he ran for the Alabama Senate and defeated a longtime Republican incumbent, Jack Biddle. Beason won re-election in 2010.
Beason was the Senate sponsor of Alabama's tough new immigration law, parts of which took effect in late September. Beason said the Legislature had to act because Washington wouldn't.
"I have proven in my service in the Legislature that I'm willing to take on tough issues," he said.
Last summer, Beason was a key figure in Alabama's gambling corruption trial. He testified about wearing a recording device for the FBI during its investigation of whether campaign donations were being offered to legislators for votes on pro-gambling legislation. His work contributed to a casino owner and two of his lobbyists pleading guilty, but a jury couldn't resolve all the charges against seven others defendants.
During the investigation, Beason recorded himself referring to customers of a casino in a predominantly black county as "aborigines." He later apologized, but Senate leaders removed him from his important leadership position as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. He has also come under criticism from some in his party for joining with Democrats in 2007 to raise the Legislature's compensation by 61 percent.
Beason's campaign will get interrupted Jan. 30 when a retrial starts in the gambling corruption case. "I will do whatever I'm asked to do to clean up Alabama," he told reporters.
Beason's wife, Lori, choked back tears at his news conference when asked about his campaign. She said she and their three young children initially didn't want him to run. "They want their dad at home," she said.
But she said she changed her mind after much prayer. "I think it is what he is supposed to do," she said.