The Associated Press projected Rogers as the victor before 9 p.m. Tuesday. By 10 p.m., with 6 of 13 counties reporting, Rogers had 58 percent of the vote, with 81,366 votes to the 57,507 votes for Harris.
It’s the sixth congressional election victory for Rogers, who in the past two election cycles has faced Democratic opponents with virtually no funding. But Rogers said he takes every race seriously.
“It’s been really tough, over 10 years, to survive” in Congress, Rogers told a crowd of more than 100 supporters in a victory speech at the Classic on Noble in Anniston.
Rogers, a former Calhoun County commissioner and state representative, was first elected to the House in 2002.
His 2012 battle with Harris was a case study in asymmetric political warfare. Rogers, with a sizable war chest from his five terms in Congress, waged a fairly traditional campaign of advertising and appearances at events around the district.
Harris, with only a few thousand dollars in funding, tried to capitalize on the advantages of his roots in the Black Belt. A Lee County commissioner, Harris hoped to use a get-out-the-vote campaign in the heavily-populated Lee County and neighboring Black Belt counties to overtake Rogers.
In the end, Rogers was the one with the winning strategy.
“Good constituent service is the key to staying in office,” Rogers said in remarks before the speech. He said he worked hard to get to know the people in his district and make sure their needs are taken care of.
“The real advantage of incumbency isn’t the money,” he said. “It’s the name recognition.” Rogers said that six months into his first term, many constituents didn’t know his name. He said polling shows he’s known to virtually all the voters in the district, something he said is the result of years of work in the district.
Asked whether his opponent had name recognition throughout the district, Rogers said constituents had often asked him who was running against him.
Harris lost in his home county of Lee, but did win neighboring Macon and Russell counties. He said he was proud his campaign convinced many new voters – he put the number at 30,000 – to register.
“I’m planning on continuing the movement,” he said. “We can bring a change about if we keep it up.”
Harris campaigned on a populist Democratic platform, expressing support for the Affordable Care Act, school lunch programs and better programs for veterans.
Rogers, meanwhile, has waged two campaigns – one to keep his seat in Congress, and another for chairmanship of the House Committee on Homeland Security. He’s one of three House members up for that chairmanship later this month. He said the way to campaign for the position was through supporting other members in their own bids for re-election.
“It’s to let them know that you’re doing your part to keep the part in the majority,” he said.
Rogers referred to President Barack Obama as “arrogant” during the campaign – but in his victory speech, he sounded a conciliatory tone, saying he’d work with Obama if the president won re-election.
“We’re going to do our best to work with him, if he wants to work with us,” Rogers said.
Harris, in remarks to The Star, was also eager to reach across the aisle, offering congratulations to Rogers and saying that he wanted to work with the congressman for the betterment of the district.
“I’ll lend him my hand,” Harris said. “My prayers and my hopes are with him.”
Capitol & statewide correspondent: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.