How I Know Don Siegelman Won't be Governor (Winner's Don't Want to Debate)
"I get a very warm feeling," said Siegelman, who telephoned THE [Decatur]DAILY. "I really have been humbled by people saying, 'Governor, we need you back. We want you to run. We need you to push that lottery again.' It's definitely brought me to the point I am saying I am going to be in the governor's race in 2006."
And with that, former governor Don Siegelman, for the first time, definitively signaled his plans to run for governor in 2006. Siegelman had been on a "listening tour" throughout the state while he decided on his political future. Don Siegelman has run for state office every four years beginning in 1978 and looks to keep the streak alive in 2006.
There are many reasons to question the political viability of Siegelman. First of all his potential primary opponent in LG Lucy Baxley looks very formidable at this early date and his potential general election opponents in Bob Riley and Roy Moore both have significant strengths of their own. And of course Siegelman is still operating with an ethical cloud overhead. While he successfully fought off charges from the US Attorney, the feds still seem to have it out for Don. And even if all of the allegations are resolved in Siegelman's favor, he will still be left with the stigma of corruption as he is trying to regain the trust of the electorate.
Though these reasons (and others) serve as significant challenges to a Siegelman comeback, it is possible to construct a scenario in which the former governor can regain his office. Or at least it was before Saturday.
You see not only did Siegelman officially declare for the race on Saturday, but he also challenged all major candidates (Baxley, Riley, and Moore) to a series of debates. As any avid political observer can tell you, any candidate who issues a debate challenge 13 months before the first vote is cast is in deep, deep trouble.
Certainly debates are a legitimate and necessary practice in a thriving democracy. But when a candidate's best tactic is to immediately challenge the other candidates to a debate, it is obvious that candidate desperately needs to change the dynamics of the race to have a shot at winning.
I know it sounds cynical, but the debate "challenge" is the tactic of last resort of the desperate candidate. I understand why Siegelman adopted this strategy, but it shows how truly far he has fallen since his reign as governor. Can you imagine Siegleman traveling around the state debating Charles Bishop in the 2002 Dem primary? Of course not. The fact that a politically astute former political heavyweight is willing to go from town to town debating anyone he can demonstrates the dire straits in which Siegelman has found himself.