By Molly K. Hooper - 01/13/10 12:57 AM EST
Without saying a word, Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) on Tuesday attempted to curb speculation that he will become a Republican.
Sporting a bright royal-blue tie, Bright told colleagues in the Democrats’ conservative Blue Dog Coalition, “I’m back.”.
Bright’s remark was greeted with applause and “attaboys,” according to Bright.
Ever since Bright’s Alabama colleague, Rep. Parker Griffith, unexpectedly defected from the Democratic Party before the holidays, there have been rumors that Bright would be the next shoe to drop.
Bright said he received a flood of phone calls after Griffith’s decision went public.
Bright stressed that his commitment is not to the Democratic Party, nor to the Republicans who have approached him to defect. His loyalties lie “firmly, unwaveringly with the people of my district,” he said.
“The vast majority of the people in my district reassured me over and over that it’s not the letter in front of your name, it’s the quality of work you put out,” Bright added.
Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) was wooed over the congressional recess by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) after Griffith announced his intentions. But Carney has indicated that he is not going to abandon the party that elected him to Congress in 2006.
Bright said even though he had been contacted by GOP officials before Griffith’s announcement, he never discussed the possibility of changing parties with his Alabama colleague.
He also hasn’t talked to Griffith since the announcement. Bright, however, did not criticize his friend for bolting the party.
Bright is the first Democrat in more than four decades to represent his conservative Alabama district. McCain attracted 63 percent of the vote in Bright’s district in the 2008 presidential race.
Even though all but one of Griffith’s Washington-based staffers resigned in protest, the freshman’s office in the Cannon building was filled on Tuesday with fresh faces.
Over a period of 48 hours last week, the former physician was able to replace most of his Democratic aides.
According to his new press secretary, Brecke Latham, a former spokeswoman for GOP Reps. Gresham Barrett (S.C.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.), Griffith returned to Washington last Tuesday to interview staff applicants.
By Wednesday, Michael Galloway had been hired as the new chief of staff, and the other legislative aide and legislative director jobs were filled by aides from Sen. Jeff Sessions’s (R-Ala.) office
Galloway, a native Alabaman, returned to Capitol Hill after a stint in the private sector. He also has worked for former Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) and Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.).
Bonner played a key role in facilitating Griffith’s transition to the GOP.
It is unclear when Griffith will receive his new committee assignments. Democrats stripped him of his panel assignments after he left the party.