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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Riley Cancels Labor Day Picnic; Riley Reading Our Blog??

This afternoon it was announced that Bob Riley cancelled his Labor Day Picnic in order to focus on helping the hurricane victims. This was the right thing to do and a fairly easy call. Just this morning we laid out our case for Riley make such a decision. Riley had no business at a "picnic" while much of the state was in disarray. This is also smart politics and Riley has seemed ahead of the curve in preparation and has shown very capable leadership in the face of this disaster. You made the right decision, governor.

Hurricane Politics

I delayed addressing the ramifications of Hurricane Katrina on Alabama's political landscape for a few days, in light of the carnage being inflicted upon the Gulf Coast. I urge all readers who are able to consider donating to the Red Cross to help assist the millions in need.

Yet, the political calendar does not stop because of natural disasters and two significant political events are only days away. Before the hurricane hit, tongues were wagging about Bob Riley's potential Labor Day campaign kickoff. Though he's long been considered a likely candidate, no word has actually escaped Riley's mouth of his re-election plans. Many expected that to change at his Labor Day Picnic. However, given the tragic circumstances left many Alabamians by Hurricane Katrina, I think Riley should push back his announcement. On a practical level, a delayed announcement gives Riley more time to focus on the aftermath of the hurricane and politically it would allow him to stay above the fray and flex his gubernatorial prestige. I haven't seen any plans for Riley to cancel his Labor Day party, but it would be appropriate (and politically smart) for Riley to spend the holiday doing all he can to aid the victims of this tragedy.

The second event waiting around the corner are the mayoral runoffs in Mobile and Tuscaloosa. Both cities received signficant damage from Katrina and are beginning the slow process of normalization. The hurricane arrived right in the middle of the runoff campaign and has naturally ground political proceedings to a halt. This part of a campaign often sees the most active, and often negative, campaigning. But how can a candidate campaign effectively when his city is in disarray and no one is focused on politics? He can't. These candidates must do what they can to assist their fellow citizens and hope that there is enough time after the worst is over to convey their campaign message. Generally, such a campaign stoppage would favor the front-runners, as the other candidates need all the time they can get to gain traction. Also, candidates who can boast of experience and competence might seem more attractive in the light of a natural disaster.

Specifically, in the Mobile mayor's race, the hurricane might have doomed any chance John Peavy had. Peavy needed a Herculean effort to overake Sam Jones' huge lead from the primary. This campaign freeze leaves Peavy right where he started and highlights Jones' extensive resume' of public service.

In Tuscaloosa, Sammy Watson led the primary, but Walt Maddox finished a strong second. This race is difficult to gauge, but Watson's lead in the primary and his status quo message probably leave him in good shape against Maddox's outsider message of change in this environment. I still don't have a feel for this race, but I do think Hurricane Katrina has made things a little tougher for Walt Maddox.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Campaign Website Links

In an effort to add a little more information to my blog, I've begun the process of providing links to all the active campaign websites for Alabama state races. The left border of the blog should provide the websites that I am aware of for the state constitutional offices. As the campaign season and (hopefully) my blog develops, I hope to be able to add links for the congressional, judiciary, PSC, and eve legislative races. But for now I'll start with the baby steps of the seven constitutional offices.

There are many candidates who are going to run in 2006 who do not have a campaign site yet, but already have an official state site (i.e. Nancy Worley, Ron Sparks). I am only interested in linking to active campaign sites. And in the interest of being comprehensive, I will not discriminate against lesser known candidates or third parties.

If there is a campaign website for a candidate for one of the above offices that I failed to incude, please email me and let me adjust accordingly. Hopefully this will be the first of many improvements undertaken. Thanks for reading.

2004 Presidential Election Breakdown by Alabama Congressional District

I finally received my copy of the Almanac of American Politics 2006 yesterday. The Almanac is a great compilation of everything an elections junkie would want to know. The most interesting nugget of information is that it shows the Presidential election results for each congressional district. It is not difficult to find presidential state results or even county numbers, but the Almanac is the only place I know of that has the Bush/Kerry numbers broken down by congressional district.

So without further ado, here are the presidential vote totals for each of Alabama's 7 congressional districts (map) . I'll put the 2000 Bush/Gore numbers in parentheses for comparison.

District 1 - Held by Jo Bonner (R)

Bush (R) - 168,817 - 64% (60)
Kerry (D) - 91,832 - 35% (37)
Other - 1,922 - 1%

District 2 - Held by Terry Everett (R)

Bush (R) - 170,427 - 67% (61)
Kerry (D) - 84,043 - 33% (38)
Other - 1,091 - 0%

District 3 - Held by Mike Rogers (R)

Bush (R) - 146,380 - 58% (52)
Kerry (D) - 103,456 - 41% (47)
Other - 1,501 - 1%

District 4 - Held by Robert Aderholt (R)

Bush (R) - 186,509 - 71% (61)
Kerry (D) - 73,504 - 28% (37)
Other -1,741 - 1%

District 5 - Held by Bud Cramer (D)

Bush (R) - 167,552 - 60% (54)
Kerry (D) - 110,633 - 39% (44)
Other - 2,225 - 1%

District 6 - Held by Spencer Bachus (R)

Bush (R) - 248,095 - 78% (74)
Kerry (D) - 69,449 - 22% (25)
Other - 722 - 0%

District 7 - Held by Artur Davis (D)

Kerry (D) - 160,875 - 64% (66)
Bush (R) - 88,433 - 35% (33)
Other - 233 - 0%

I don't have any particular observations. Since the Alabama congressional districts were tweaked following the 2000 census, comparing the 2000 and 2004 numbers is a little tricky. That aside, each district gave Bush a higher percentage in 2004 than 2000 with CD-7 seeing a small 2% gain for Bush, while CD-4 saw Bush rise 10%.

The only other comment I have is to notice that Cramer's district went stronger for Bush than Rogers' did. Though, Cramer is much more entrenched in his district than Rogers, these numbers could give encouragment to a challenger to either.

Feel free to post any thoughts or obseravations you have on these numbers.

Monday, August 29, 2005

AL Dems Endorse Sam Jones: Help or Hindrance?

On Saturday the Alabama Democratic Party awarded its endorsement to longtime Democrat Mobile County Commissioner Sam Jones in his quest to become the mayor of Mobile. While this move should not be controversial in Democratic circles, as Jones is running against Republican John Peavy, it is open to discussion whether this endorsement helps or hinders Jones' bid to become Mobile's first black mayor.

Though a nice gesture, I don't really see any practical advantage given to Jones by this endorsement. Perhaps, the Democratic party can now use some of its resources to aid Jones, but I saw no mention of that. And certainly Jones was already being aided by Democrats from all over the state prior to Saturday's endorsement.

Unfortunately for Jones it is easier to think of ways for this endorsement to hurt rather than help. Jones came very close to winning an outright majority in the four candidate primary election and becoming the next mayor last Tuesday. He only needs to add a little over 2% to his total to win the runoff. Whereas, Peavy has to nearly double his 25% to win. However, the two dispatched candidates from the primary (Ann Bedsole and Bess Rich) are both Republicans, giving Peavy at least some hope that if he can consolidate the GOP vote, he can emerge victorious. It is this element that perhaps should have given the state Democrats pause before endorsing Jones. It would appear that the only thing that can keep Sam Jones from being the next mayor of Mobile would be an extreme polarization of the Mobile electorate- partisan, racial, ideological, or otherwise. And the state Democrats are giving Jones' opponents some ammuntion with which to start just that kind of polarization.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Meet the New Chair, same as the Old Chair

As predicted by this blog on Thursday, Joe Turnham has been elected as the new state party chair for the Alabama Democrats. Turnham had the support of 142 of the 170 State Democratic Executive Committee members present. Though a seemingly large number of members did not attend (around 100 didn't show), Turnham's vote total actually accounts for a majority of the full committee and not just the actual attendees. State Rep. Richard Lindsey came to the conclusion we reached on Thursday:

State Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, said Turnham won because he entered the race early, while Jones didn't get in until two weeks ago, when Turnham had already lined up many commitments.

We're impressed with Turnham's landslide and a little suprised that the Siegelman machine wasn't able to marshall more support for Jones. Is this a sign of things to come as active, loyal Democrats seem ready to embrace a new, Siegleman-free Democratic future? Judging by these results, Siegelman and his allies don't have the clout they used to. Now, I doubt that this vote will keep Siegelman out of the race, but it might give him a little pause to see his former base edging away from him.

However, this day belongs to Turnham, who received more good news with the announcement of a significant investment by the Democratic National Committee in the state party. Redding Pitt detailed the good news:

Pitt, the outgoing chairman, said he spent his last few weeks in office making sure the party is sound financially. He said the national Democratic Party is giving the Alabama party $700,000 to pay for three field organizers, a party communications director, and voter file maintenance through the 2008 elections.

So this should give Turnham a running start into the 2006 elections and maybe shield him from some of the fundraising woes that plauged both of his congressional campaigns. This blog has detailed some of the reasons why Turnham might not have been the best choice for Alabama Democrats, but he now has a chance to right old wrongs and change his legacy from that of an earnest loser to that of a victorious leader. We congratulate Joe Turnham.

Democrats land a State Supreme Court Candidate

Though there are five State Supreme Court seats up for election in 2006, the Democrats just now landed their first official challenger. The AL Supreme Court has transitioned from all Democrat to all Republican starting with Harold See's win in 1996 to the GOP taking Doug Johnstone's open seat in 2004. 2006 seems as good an opportunity as the Democrats will have for a while to make up considerable ground on the Court. Speculation abounds that the only remaining Democratic statewide judge, Criminal Appeals Court Judge Sue Bell Cobb, is looking to run for Chief Justice and that ex-Justice John England will run again, but this week saw Russell County Circuit Judge Albert Johnson become the first Democrat to officially file with the Secretary of State.

Interestingly enough, even though there is at least one open slot (with Justice Robert Harwood hanging up the robes) Johnson filed to take on incumbent Lyn Stuart, who just announced that she will run for re-election. Probably, some Democrat such as England has privately staked out the open seat, but there does seem to be a sense that Stuart does not have an especially strong profile in the state. She is one of the GOP judicial candidates who was swept into office in 2000 as a result of the Bush/Moore tide. Stuart defeated Democratic Justice Ralph Cook who, on paper, seemed to have more support and better qualifications. Without a presidential race to lead the ticket, Johnson must feel that Stuart will have a tough time recreating her 2000 victory.

Johnson does not seem to be repeating the strategy of past Demcratic candidates and simply trying to out-conservative the GOP, instead his rhetoric thus far indicated a populist approach:
"Based on the bent of the court, I felt we needed a different perspective," Johnson said in an interview Tuesday.

"Obviously, they are pro-business. There are times it appears they are so pro-business that they are anti-consumer," Johnson said.

It remains to be seen whether or not this strategy is effective, but the Democrats can take solace that they seem to have recruited at least one strong candidate in what might be their last, best shot at denting GOP court domination for a generation.

Friday, August 26, 2005

State Democratic Chair Race

In this my inaugural post, I will take a look at the upcoming (Aug 27) showdown as Doug Jones and Joe Turnham vie for the chairmanship of the AL Democratic Party.

Though we should know who the next chair will be over the weekend, there are still a few points to be made about the process itself. Contrast the Democratic race with the coronation of Twinkle Andress-Cavanaugh by the AL GOP in February. Now that is not to say that Twinkle will ultimately be a better chair, but the GOP process sure was alot neater and nicer. Twinkle's uncontested ascension is even more impressive given the assumed looming Riley/Roy bloodbath staring down the GOP in 06, not to mention the intraparty unpleasantness that took place in the 04 primaries (Parker/Brown and Zeigler/Hooper, anyone?). So I am not sure what it says about the two parties, but there is something to be learned from their respective chair races.

But on to the upcoming. Though former state legislator Tom Radney is keeping his name in the mix, the two serious candidats for state Democratic chair are former state chair and twice defeated congressional candidate Joe Turnham and former US attorney and Siegelman friend Doug Jones. Turnham has been running hard for the position since Pitt announced his resignation in mid July, while Jones just declared for the position a little more than a week ago. Unsuprisingly Turnham has had a chance to accrue a good deal more public support in that time. In fact, I've seen some reports of Turnham claiming 41 members of the state legislature (among them Speaker Hammett) and various county committees. This would seem like a pretty significant headstart for Turnham. However, Jones seems likely to assume alot of the support that erstwhile candidate Giles Perkins had lined up in his aborted bid. Perkins and Jones are friends and more importantly are both usually identified within the Siegelman camp.

Yes, even though Siegelman has been out of elective office for two and a half years, he seems to be the defining issue in the chair race. During Turnham's previous term as state chair he and Siegelman were not viewed as allies, whereas Doug Jones has assissted the Siegelman defense team in the ex-governor's legal battles. Indeed, for Democrats this chair race seems to be shaping up as a dry run for the 2006 governor's primary with an anti-Don camp and a pro-Don camp. Turnham would seem to be well positioned to snatch power away from the Siegelman forces, but they have been ruling the state party for the last 6 years and seem unlikely to go down without a fight.

However, I would not be especially optimistic about my new chairman if I were a Democrat. I should say that I don't really think the state chair has much impact positive or negative on actual electoral success. Certainly fundraising is a primary responsibility and navigating the minefields of a major political party requires a certain level of acumen, but in reality electoral fortunes are only minimally affected by who is the state party chairman. That being said, Democrats should want the strongest chair possible, and I just don't see much to get excited about in the Turnham/Jones race. It is fundamentally a matchup of a slightly bitter retread (Turnham) and a Redding Pitt clone (Jones). Now both are loyal Democrats, accomplished, and bright, but I don't see a transformational leader in there anywhere. This seems like a race of Status Quo #1 vs Status Quo #2. Now for some political parties that might be ideal (GA GOP or IL Dems maybe) but for the Alabama Democrats the last thing they need is more status quo.

It is no secret that Joe Turnham already served one term as state chair. But I've seen no mention of his actual perfomance during that time. Indeed, an Alabama Democrat with a long memory probably won't remember Joe Turnham's previous term with much fondness. Turnham was state chair during the 1996 elections which saw Democrats lose a US Senate seat (Heflin), two US House seats (Bevill, Browder) and saw GOPer Harold See win a high profile state Supreme Court race to become the first elected GOP supreme court justice ever. Now, as I said above probably very little of this debacle can be attributed to Turnham, but it seems foolish to totally gloss over arguably the worst election cycle the AL Democratic party has ever seen when one if its architects wants to run the show again.

Democrats should also not forget Turnham's 2002 bid for Congress. In most ways his run was a valiant one, though he ultimately lost to Mike Rogers. However, in the aftermath of his loss he blamed the national Democratic party and its various committees for not offering more financial support. I think his criticism is probably warranted and had the party funded his race more fully he'd probably be a member of Congress. Yet it is a little disconcerting that his Achilles' heel in that race was a lack of funding when fundraising is probably the most important fucntion of a state chairman. More than that though, Turnham still seems a little bitter over his 2002 loss. Just take a look at his appeal to Democratic Executive Committee members (who actually vote on the chair):

"With less than two weeks to go in the 2002 General Election, I stood on the corner near my home in Auburn, Alabama as Marine One landed 2 miles away. President George W. Bush walked onto the campus of Auburn University in full regalia for the purpose of helping and endorsing my republican opponent for Congress, Mike Rogers. Ironically, only days before, the national Democratic Party (DCCC) pulled campaign ads, money and support for my campaign. In the end,I lost a close election by 3,800 votes out of 190,000 - in part as a result of these two occurrences."

And while I don't disagree with his analysis, I do think he still carries some bitterness from that campaign. I can fully understand such an emotion, but I don't think most Democrats want a chairman with an ax to grind against his own party.

Lest I be accused of favoritism let me link to Doug Jones' appeal to the SDEC as well. Jones' letter is pretty standard stuff with a few generic "ideas" by which to strengthen the party. Since Jones has had a limited role in Democratic politics (other than an aborted Senate run in 2002 and a member on the SDEC), he is more of a blank slate than Turnham. As I said above, I am sure both of these candidates are solid Democrats and only want the best for the party, but neither of them strikes me as the type of chair that will bring anything new to the help the Democratic party regain some of the traction it has lost since the mid 1990s.

My prediction is that Turnham will win and do a serviceable job. Ultimately the next chair will be judged by elections won and lost. Certainly the governor's race will be an opportunity for the next chair to prove himself. And he, and all Democrats, should take comfort that the governor's office does seem within Democratic grasp.

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