Biddle/Beason Battle for Future of GOP
That race will feature a generational and ideological showdown between State Sen Jack Biddle (R-Gardendale) and State Rep Scott Beason (R-Gardendale).
Biddle has been in the Alabama legislature since 1974. Indeed when Biddle was first elected to the State House, Scott Beason was only 5 years old. Biddle served as a Democrat until the mid 1990s and was elected to his first Senate term in 1994. The upcoming 2006 GOP primary will actually be Biddle's first competitive race since the 1994 primary . And who was his opponent in the 1994 GOP primary? None other than Scott Beason.
Biddle defeated Beason with a 60/40 split in that first race. But four years after his defeat by Biddle, Beason ousted incumbent GOP State Rep Jim Townsend and has since become a conservative firebrand in the Democratic House. Beason styles himself as Paul Hubbert and the AEA's number one enemy in the legislature. And while Biddle has been an elected Republican for over a decade, some in the GOP (such as Beason) feel that he has remained too close to his Democratic roots.
While a longtime incumbent like Biddle is normally immune to primary challenges, a Beason candidacy certainly gives Biddle reason to worry. Biddle has not had a tough race since the 1994 primary which could leave his campaign organization and skills a little rusty. Beason's fierce 1998 race and a mildly competitive 2002 primary should have kept his political structure sharper.
Also, part of the Senate district is actually fairly new territory for Biddle. Blount county was added to the 17th district following the 2002 redistricting. And while both Biddle and Beason share a Jefferson county base, Blount's conservative leanings could very well favor the challenger.
Money will be an issue for Beason however. While Biddle should be very well financed from his decades of contacts, Beason's bomb-throwing brand of politics has not exactly endeared him to many legislative interests. However, if Beason is able to energize conservatives throughout the state, he might be able to raise enough money to remain competitive with the incumbent.
Though the winner of the primary will certainly hold onto this safely Republican seat this race has the potential to have significant implications for Republican politics in Alabama. A Beason victory could signal a changing of the guard among the state's GOP and usher in a wave of more strident and conservative Republican politics. And conversely if Biddle is able to rebuff the Beason challenge, the more conciliatory, moderate brand of legislative politics will have been reaffirmed.
I am not sure who will win this rematch, but I'd wager it'll be closer than the 60/40 result in the first Biddle/Beason duel.