U.S. Rep. Terry Everett retiring at end of 8th term
By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — An heir to the Goldwater Sweep of 1964, U.S. Rep. Terry Everett is retiring, leaving southeast Alabama's 2nd Congressional District without a Republican incumbent on the ballot for only the second time in 22 elections.
But in a conservative region with heavy emphasis on military bases and farming, the GOP is confident of holding the seat in 2008 against an expected strong Democratic challenge.
In GOP hands
Everett succeeded Republican Rep. Bill Dickinson in 1992 and kept the district comfortably in GOP hands, much as Dickinson had done since winning the seat in 1964. In that watershed election, Dickinson was among five GOP members to win House seats — the delegation was all-Democratic at the time — as Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater swept the once solidly Democratic state.
Despite Republican control of the seat for more than 40 years, Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said a Democrat can win next year, citing the number of Democrats in the area who continue to hold legislative seats and county courthouse offices.
"A lot of people think this is the opportunity of a lifetime," Turnham said.
Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said a crowd likely will seek the seat but predicted the winner would be a Republican. There are currently five Republicans and two Democrats in Alabama's congressional delegation.
Everett, 70, of Rehobeth, a former newspaper publisher and farmer, cited health reasons. He said he has suffered some nerve damage in his right foot because of recent bouts with shingles.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Everett said the decision to retire was difficult.
"I've been up here almost 16 years. There's a season for all things and this season is coming to a close," Everett said.
He said he is looking forward to returning to his southeast Alabama farm, tending to his more than 100 fruit trees and pursuing his wood working hobby.
Much of Everett's work recently has concentrated on helping Alabama farmers survive a drought that has gripped the state for more than a year. He said he will continue to push legislation he is sponsoring to set up public reservoirs for farmers to use to irrigate crops.
He said he will miss his work on the Intelligence Committee.
"I think some of the most important work I've done I can't talk about because it was on the Intelligence Committee," he said. He is the ranking minority member and former chair of the panel's strategic forces subcommittee.
Everett also is a member of the agriculture and armed services committees. He represents Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, which covers much of southeast and central Alabama from Dothan to Montgomery.
Everett's district includes the Wiregrass area of Southeast Alabama, an important agricultural region known for its peanuts, cotton and other crops. The district is also home to two major military installations — the Army's flight training base at Fort Rucker near Ozark and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.
Steven Taylor, a political scientist at Troy University, said Everett found a way to be on the committees that considered issues important to people in his district — particularly agriculture and military issues. While Everett was not known for making loud speeches, Taylor said he quietly pushed the issues important to people in his district.
Alabama's Republican Party chairman, Hubbard, said he was surprised by Everett's decision to retire.
"He's been a solid voice for Alabama in Congress," Hubbard said.
D'Linell Finley, a political scientist at Auburn University Montgomery, said Everett has worked quietly during his 15 years in Congress, concentrating much of his effort on farming issues and on preserving the military presence in his district.
"I think Terry Everett has been a pretty good congressman for that district. It's a district where he didn't have to do a lot of controversial advocacy. He talked about things folks in the district were comfortable with, like farming," Finley said.
Finley predicted heavy interest from Republicans and Democrats, but said he thought the seat would remain Republican. Taylor agreed that he expects the district to remain "solidly red."
"It's a district with a lot of military people in it, a lot of people who tend to be Republican leaning," Finley said.
The president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, Jerry Newby, called Everett "a true friend to Alabama agriculture."
"Mr. Everett has been the congressional leader on peanut issues and was the chief architect on numerous pieces of legislation that benefited agriculture," Newby said.
Within hours after Everett's announcement, a number of names of prominent Republicans and Democrats were being mentioned as possible candidates for the seat, including Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia. But Hammett issued a statement through his office saying he is not planning to run.
State Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, said he is creating an exploratory committee to look at the race.
"I feel like I have a good sense of the district and this is going to be a great opportunity," Wren said.
Another name mentioned was state Sen. Harri Ann Smith, R-Slocumb. She praised Everett Wednesday and said it was too early to talk about who will replace him.
"We should be talking about the great job Terry Everett has done representing our state," she said. Smith said Everett worked hard to help the state get federal aid after destructive storms, including the tornado earlier this year that killed eight students at Enterprise High School.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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