— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — On the campus of Samford University, seven Republican hopefuls took the stage at a candidate forum to explain why voters should send them to the U.S. Congress.
They largely agreed with each other on policy issues. The Affordable Care Act should be repealed. Term limits should be adopted.
But in the crowded field vying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus in Alabama's 6th Congressional District, the seven are striving for ways to set themselves apart. Two pointed to their experience in politics, another two their lack of it. One notes his experience at a doctor. Another made a memorable ad using his AR-15 to shoot holes in a copy of the Affordable Care Act.
"The first question everybody is asking is, 'Who gets the two tickets to the runoff?'" said Alabaster state Sen. Cam Ward, who considered running for the seat but didn't.
The 6th Congressional District, which encompasses most of the majority white areas of the Birmingham-metropolitan area, is considered one of the most strongly Republican in the southeast. Seventy-four percent of voters cast ballots for Mitt Romney in 2012. The territory snakes from Blount County, through Alabama's wealthiest cities, including Mountain Brook, and into the bedroom communities and rural areas of Shelby and Chilton counties.
But within its crooked borders, lie the diversity, and sometimes divisions, of the modern GOP. The district encompasses the Birmingham heart of the state's business community, suburbanites, some of the state's most active tea party groups, Ward said.
"The winner, in my opinion, is the guy that can appeal enough to the tea party but that the business community is comfortable with," Ward said.
Two veteran Jefferson County legislators with contrasting styles, Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood and Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, are vying for the seat.