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Saturday, August 27, 2005

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.


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