Alabama's 3rd Congressional District is a diverse cross section of east central Alabama which goes from Montgomery to the Georgia border. Incumbent Republican Representative Mike Rogers has held the seat for the past ten years. Rogers is being opposed this time around by Democrat John Harris.
Alabama Public Radio's Ryan Vasquez spoke with Dr. Curtis Ellis , assistant professor of political science and public administration at Auburn University in Montgomery about the race. He says while the Obama ticket in 2008 made the race close four years ago the Democratic candidate shouldn't expect as much of a bump this time around.
(Dr. Curtis Ellis): It seems to be what the district wants, it’s always hard to say, how has someone represented their district because they just said the district is diverse. So, I’m pretty sure the people that vote for representative Rogers would think he does a fairly fantastic job. There’s a portion of Montgomery County and McKeen County however that are often won by the democratic candidates that may disagree with that and some of those priorities but overall it is just a solid republican district.
(Ryan Vasquez): Why is there no highly contested race this time around when the past two election cycles we’ve had at least one or two?
(Dr. Ellis): I think in a lot of ways this is something that we see nationwide and we have seen for a long time. Most of the time house races simply aren’t that competitive. One of the things you always talk about in a congress course or an intro to American Government course is how the congress has had a very low approval rating amongst the public but most people think that their member of congress deserves to be re-elected, usually well over 50 percent. So incumbents just have a huge advantage in house races they win almost 97 percent of the time.
(Vasquez): Is two years really kind of evaluate a representative, so I guess my point being is do you want to give someone more than two years to try them out if they do not horribly offend you in those two years or is it that much harder for an incumbent when, say for instance, Rogers will be in 10 years now, in the seat. You get to build up two years, two years, two years, two years, where it’s a point it becomes hard for an incumbent to lose.
Dr. Ellis): Well for a long time we’ve called the house a constant campaign. Members of the house really don’t have time to turn away from the polls and an incumbent just has a huge advantage everything from name recognition. Representative Rogers has been ending his campaign fairly regularly with cash on hand, giving him a running start for the next race as far as fundraising and advertising goes and I think what you said as simple as it might sound it might be true that as long as my representative seems to support the thing I support and as long as he or she do anything that terribly offends me they get to hang around, scholars have found a number of reasons for this like I said from name recognition to constituency service. You know, one of the examples, sort of generic examples is when grandmas social security check doesn’t show up and she has to call the district office and they help get that sorted out, she’s on board and many of these states districts, one of the problems is challenger quality, the opposing party doesn’t really see it worth the investment of the resources and the time to recruit candidates they will get behind and sink money into it just to make a race a little bit closer when they just don’t feel like they have a chance to win.