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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Monday, October 31, 2005

More Siegelman Indictment Fallout

The political specualtion has run fast and furious following the recent indictment of Don Siegelman, Richard Scrushy, and two former Siegelman aides.

The Birmingham News explores the consequences of the charges on the race for governor. Unsurprisingly there are different perspectives on precisely what the fallout will be.

Read the entire News piece for all the angles on the newly complicated Democratic primary. But I'll highlight a few of the different possibilities laid out by the various pundits. ( I should note that all scenarios are moot if Siegelman is found guilty, since he would then be incarcertaed during the election.)
"If Siegelman is exonerated in this, he will be awfully strong," said state Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville.

"I think she[Baxley] has been a little bit off balance because there have been so many rumors relating to Don Siegelman," Geddie said. "If Lucy articulates the proper message and people respond to it, her campaign may start taking on steam, so I think these next months are crucial for her."

"It would be hard to present yourself as the party that hadn't gotten into trouble, the party of the higher standard, if you're being led by a person who's been indicted," Stewart said.

"In the last campaign, they called him a crook," Hinshaw said. "Well, Don Siegelman still almost won that race. He's already been indicted and the charges have been thrown out. If these charges fall apart, Don Siegelman will be your next
governor."

"Lucy is going to run strong on the fact that there hasn't been any suggestion of impropriety in her tenure," said Madison County Democratic chairman Doug Dermody.
So that is just a sampling of some of the varied commentary on the now legally charged Democratic primary. As you can tell, opinions run the gamut from the belief that Siegelman is politically finished no matter what happens in the courtroom to the notion that a legally victorious Siegelman could emerge stronger than ever.

It is really too early to know exactly what the political impact will be. Much will depend on the timing, evidence, and actual outcome of the trial. It does look like Lucy Baxley is counting on Siegelman's legal problems to deliver the Democratic nomination to her. But given Baxley's timidity and lack of an overarching vision, a candidate with the experience, energy, and political ferosity of Don Siegelman should never be counted out.

Unless, of course, he's in prison.

End of an Era

photo from Decatur Daily by John Godbey
The Decatur Daily has a great profile on retiring State Rep. Tommy Carter (D-Elkmont). Carter is hanging it up after 36 years in the state legislature. Carter's district looks to be one of the handful of highly competitive House seats in the 2006 cycle. Republicans are sure to make a strong effort to claim the seat, while Democrats will be equally as eager to retain it.

But Carter's retirement means more than just a competitive election for his successor. Indeed, this profile shows how Carter (and others like him) have held sway on the most important issues facing the state. It not only gives a great insider perspective on how the Alabama legislature functions, but also is a must-read for anyone who is interested in Alabama politics past, present, or future.

Carter, who is retiring after being elected 9 times, speaks very candidly on his experience and the issues of the day. For example though he has always been a Democrat, he did consider switching parties in the mid 1990s.
What can't be denied is that Carter has remained a steadfast Democrat, although he thought of switching to the Republican Party. In 1994, he got frustrated when the Alabama Democratic Party ordered a new election when its Elections Committee ruled that balloting errors in the primary made it impossible to determine if he won. Carter spent $50,000 in legal fees to stop a new election.
"I don't have a real good taste in my mouth for the Democratic Party," he said at the time. Then in 1995, he thought about switching because he felt the Republican Party was akin to his conservative ideals.

"Overall, the Democratic Party has been good to me," Carter said. "You have fanatics on both sides. Down South we do need to keep conservatives in the party. The Kerrys, Kennedys and Clintons are a little out of my line as far as liberalism." Asked why he stayed in the Democratic Party, Carter answered, "I thought it would be the only way I could win."
But Carter also demonstrates his partisan zeal in commenting on the current political climate.

Carter is not complimentary of Gov. Bob Riley, saying he doesn't communicate well, and that Riley never appreciated his support of the governor's proposed tax package that voters rejected. (Riley did declare Thursday to be Tommy Carter Day.)
"I don't think he (Riley) likes Democrats, and he doesn't like seniority," Carter said. "He thinks there should be term limits. I say the public has a right to send somebody to Montgomery as often as they like."

This profile is filled with plenty of interesting revelations from the dean of the Alabama House. There's the story of how Carter procured a rocket for his rural district, his thoughts on the changing face of the Alabama legislature, and a tongue-in-cheek mention of his new dog. So make sure to read the entire thing.

Tommy Carter has been an institution in the Alabama House and the legislature will be different without him. But Carter represents more than just one district; his collegial approach and good natured demeanor are in short supply in the divisive, polarizing climate of the current Alabama House.

Carter's retirement, in itself, probably won't change the House in an especially dramatic way. But as more of the "old guard" legislators retire, there is no doubt that the legislature and the state will be different for their loss.

Friday, October 28, 2005

"Not Guilty" Says Siegelman

Just one day after being served a series of indictments, Don Siegelman was in a Montgomery courtroom declaring his innocence. Siegelman looks to remain defiant throughout the proceedings.

Through a disgruntled Democrat, I received a copy of an email Siegelman sent to his supporters. You can view the entire text here. I'll excerpt a couple of my favorite parts:
"The prosecutors don't know me but the people of Alabama do. They know me to be honest, hardworking and someone who will never, ever quit."
Not to quarrel with Siegelman's assertion, but I doubt that honesty is the predominant characteristic most Alabamians associate with the former governor. He is a tireless worker and campaigner though, you have to give him that.
"Bob Riley is afraid to face me in the General Election."
I don't know about that one either. I realize Siegelman's theory is that the investigations are a partisan witchhunt meant to wreck his political career before he can even the score with Bob Riley. But, with the campaign progressing as it is, I think Bob Riley would be relieved to face off with Siegelman in the November.

This letter and Siegelman's strategy as a whole is a pretty standard mix of declarations of innocence and demonizing the prosecutors. It worked well enough for Siegelman during his first trial, but I think the ex-governor might be going to the well one too many times.

New Poll Tests Bama Senators

Survey USA released a new poll this week gauging the job approval of all 100 senators. Both Alabama senators have pretty good numbers.

Richard Shelby (R) - 60% approve/32% disapprove

Jeff Sessions (R) - 57% approve/34% disapprove

Session's numbers are actually at the exact median point of the entire Senate, whereas Shelby is at few percentage points higher than average.

These numbers do contradict the conventional wisdom that Richard Shelby has a much broader level of popularity than his more conservative colleague. While Shelby does score marginally better approval numbers than Sessions, these results don't bear out the conventional wisdom of Shelby's near universal popularity.

But ultimately both Shelby and Sessions are pretty well immune from a strong challenge and look to be able to continue serving as long as they choose.

And in case you're interested Susan Collins (R-ME) had the highest approval ratings at 79/18 and Rick Santorum (R-PA) had the lowest at 45/48.

Siggy's Got a Gun

Perhaps the most interesting bit of information revealed during Don Siegelman's arraignment was the fact that the former governor is always packing heat. Siegelman's lawyer requested and received permission for his client to continue his practice of carrying a gun, even though he is under indictment.

Apparently during Siegelman's stint as Attorney General he put away some nefarious characters that he thinks might still hold a grudge. Siegelman's request seems justifiable and the judge didn't want to leave him defenseless.

I am surprised we are just learning about this now. If more people had been aware of Siegelman's pistol packing predilection in 2002, he might still be governor.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Siegelman Indictment: 2.0

As he, myself, and almost everyone in the state expected, Don Siegelman has received another indictment. At least some of the indictments were actually filed in May, but have been sealed until now (as a source told me, and I told you last month). Siegelman was indicted along with Richard Scrushy and two former aides (Paul Hamrick and Gary Mack Roberts).

There are over 30 separate charges involved in the series of indictments, but the ones specifically pertaining to Siegelman are racketeering, bribery, mail and wire fraud, extortion, and obstruction of justice. The basic premise of the government's case (which is completely unrelated to Siegelman's first set of indictments) is that Siegelman accepted personal and political bribes in return for favorable assistance in securing state contracts. Phillip Rawls, of the AP, has the details on the various dirt involved.

The political impact is a little murky as of now. But this is certainly a dark day for Don Siegelman's political aspirations. Even though it is no surprise, the fact that the hammer has come down on him once again makes a political comeback even more difficult. I didn't see any details on the trial schedule, but this will no doubt drag into next year and cloud not only his own efforts, but also the Democratic primary as a whole.

And for that reason I think this indictment is bad news for Alabama Democrats, and not just their ex-Governor. First of all, these indictments reflect poorly on the Siegelman administration and on the party as a whole. Especially in comparison to the current administration. Whether or not you think Riley has been a good governor, he has presided over an administration relatively free of scandal or corruption charges.

Secondly, these indictments can have two potential impacts on the Democratic primary. It will either permanently end Siegelman's career and allow Baxley to coast to the nomination. Or Siegelman could beat the charges (again) and ride a wave of redemption to garner the Democratic nod.

The first scenario is probably more likely than the latter and while most Democrats would be glad to see Baxley cruise in the primary, I am not sure that is unabashedly positive. The Baxley campaign seems seriously adrift at the moment, yet she has done little to confront the fundamental problems slowing her down (see my "memo" to Lucy for more detail). But a vigorous primary where she has to do more than speak at the local Lion's club would do wonders for her campaign structure, message, and skill. If she could best a viable Don Siegelman in the primary then she'd be well prepared for a general election matchup with the victor on the GOP side.

And of course if Don Siegelman is somehow able to triumph in both his legal case and the primary, Democrats will be left with a nominee with a truckload of baggage and sky-high negatives. There is a small possibility that an exonerated Siegelman can rally Democrats to his cause, but I think he is probably too damaged to win the support of the electorate as a whole. I suppose it is possible that the Riley/Moore primary could be so negative that it would leave the eventual winner too bloodied and broke to recover, but baring that unlikely event I think these indictments have, fairly or not, rendered Don Siegelman's political career over.

The full political fallout from these indictments will be determined in the coming months in the press and in the courtroom. But at this juncture Don Siegelman's political career, already in critical condition, is now on life support. It will indeed be a difficult for Siegelman to win the Democratic primary, but for Don Siegelman to actually be elected to office again would truly take a minor miracle.

Let There Be Votes: Supreme Court Smacks Guv

I haven't paid too much attention to the intrigue over the potential special election for Mobile County Commission. But I was surprised when the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously ruled, against the wishes of the Riley administration, that a special election must be held to elect the replacement of new mayor Sam Jones.

The confusion was apparently over a conflict between state and local statute concerning the manner in which a vacancy would be filled. State law gave the governor power to appoint a successor until the next election (in this case 2008). The county law however called for a special election to be held.

The commission district affected is a heavily minority district. So the method of selection will ultimately determine which party holds the district. A special election would most likely result in a Democratic win, while Riley would assuredly appoint a fellow Republican.

The GOP will continue to hold a majority on the three member commission as the other two seats are held by Republicans, but since the next general election isn't until 2008, whoever fills Jones' seat can have a considerable impact. Local Mobile Democrats took the issue to the courts and not only received a favorable ruling from a Democratic circuit judge, but also the all GOP State Supreme Court.

So Mobile will soon elect a successor (most likely a Democrat) to the vacant seat. But more interesting than that, is seeing the GOP Supreme Court unanimously side against the Riley administration, even on a relatively trivial matter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Flowers Looks Back

Former state legislator and newspaper columnist Steve Flowers is using his weekly column to give a historical sketch on each governor's race from 1958 to the present. Flowers' column is printed in many Alabama newspapers but in case you haven't run across him recently, I'd recommend you go check out his website.

The current column discusses the 1974 race, but his site contains an archives section so you can read all of his back issues.

Flowers is always an interesting read as he usually gives his folksy, insider spin on events. Though he lost a race for State Senate in 2002, there are rumors that he still hasn't scratched his political itch. I don't know if he'll try an '06 comeback, but I hope he keeps the columns coming.
So check out his series on Alabama's past gubernatorial races and make him a regular if you enjoy reading about Alabama politics.

The Weary Seamstress

As everyone is now aware, Rosa Parks passed away Monday night. I don't have the skill to properly eulogize her.

Instead, I'll just direct you to the resource the Montgomery Advertiser has put together on Parks' life. They have articles, photographs, and even a video to help gain a comprehensive understanding of her impact.

Your Two Cents: Guest Blogging

In an effort to try to expand the range of issues and general perspective presented here at AlabamaElections, I want to open up the possibility for readers to contribute to this blog. If anyone is interested in being a guest blogger, shoot me an email and we can discuss it.

I don't have anything too specific in mind. Of course it has to relate to Alabama politics (past, present, or future), but other than that I'll be pretty flexible. Feel free to advocate for a particular candidate or cause, discuss a local or state race, or even make some predictions. Or if you're interested in something completely different, just let me know and we'll go from there.

I will still be posting on a regular basis, so I am not trying to get you to do my work for me. But there are definitely important issues that I neglect (out of preference or ignorance) and a different perspective would be beneficial for the blog.

So if you have an idea for a post or think you might be interested in the future, let me know and we'll discuss it. Thanks and keep reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sessions' Sounds of Silence

Is it just me or has Jeff Sessions been a little quiet about the Harriet Miers nomination?

Sessions met with Miers in the days after her nominations and gave her a fairly positive review ("My conversations with Harriet Miers indicate that she is a first-rate lawyer and a fine person"). But that was before the conservative opposition to Miers really coalesced and the before the Bush administration and Miers herself hurt their own cause with a series of missteps.

But since his initial meeting with Miers, I haven't heard a peep from Sessions. Now from most senators that wouldn't necessarily warrant attention. But not only is Jeff Sessions on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his career has seen frequent criticisims "activist judges" and a focus on the administration of a "strict constructionist" judicial system.

And yet along comes the most controversial nomination of Session's senatorial career and he seems content to just stay on the sidelines. If Sandra Day O'Connor's slot is filled with a conservative, then that has the potential to dramatically shift the court to the right. A prospect which should have Sessions excited. Yet instead of being on the front lines either questioning or touting Miers' right-wing bonafides, Sessions has let fellow hard-liners like Sam Brownback (R-KS) and even mushy moderate Arlen Specter (R-PA) take the lead on the Miers nomination.

It is possible that I have just missed Sessions' reactions to Miers. Or that he is taking the defensible position that he'll wait until the confirmation hearings to decide. But Sessions has had at least a single one-on-one meeting with her, in which he presumably asked her questions he felt important. And the way the nomination is heading, I'll be very surprised if there are confirmation hearings so Sessions might not ever have to go on the record with his thoughts about Miers.

Sessions is well within his right to be low-key on this nomination, or anything else. But given his past pronouncements and his focus on the courts, I expected him to lead on the Miers nominations instead of waiting to see how the winds are shifting. Maybe Sessions is afraid an outspoken critique would burn bridges in the administration or he doesn't want to antagonize the few conservative groups who have supported Miers.

Whatever the reason for his silence Jeff Sessions is missing a chance to put himself forward as one of the more vigorous leaders of the strict-constructionist perspective and of the conservative movement as a whole.

Davis at D-trip?

Last month I talked about Artur Davis' impressive political ascent and his ambitions for higher office. Now national publications are talking up Davis for a promotion within the ranks of House Democrats.

The insider D.C. publication Rollcall mentioned Alabama's own Artur Davis in a recent article. Davis is being mentioned to take over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when the current chair steps down. The DCCC is the political arm of the House Democratic Conference; it is responsible for helping recruit, fund, and strategize for congressional races. Though the chair of the DCCC is appointed by the Democratic leader (currently Nancy Pelosi) it is often thought of as one of the handful of top leadership positions and a stepping stone to higher positions, (whip, leader, speaker?).

The DCCC is currently headed by Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) who is getting rave reviews. It is possible that Emanuel could step down after the 2006 elections or serve another two year term beginning in 2007. But whenever the DCCC chair is next vacant, Artur Davis is one of the names mentioned to fill it.

From the article:
Like Emanuel, Reps. [Artur]Davis, [Chris]Van Hollen and [Kendrick]Meek are in their second terms and viewed widely as rising Caucus stars with solid political know-how. Van Hollen is spearheading Democratic candidate recruitment this cycle, while Davis is a regional recruitment chairman and Meek is a committee vice chairman.

Davis said he's "given no thought" to chairing the DCCC or taking up another leadership slot, adding that he believes Emanuel "is the best chair we've had."

"I don't spend a lot of time thinking about leadership goals," Davis said. "Clearly there are a lot of people here who have been here a lot longer than I have. I'm focused on being a good, committed Member."
Davis has had a meteoric rise since his 2002 election and this is further evidence that he is seen as leadership material by Democrats in Washington as well as Alabama. It is much too early to know whether Davis is likely to be the DCCC chair in the near future. But the very fact that his name is mentioned by his colleagues shows the depth of respect and faith his colleagues have in him.

Of course if Davis was DCCC chair, he could possibly help recruit and fund Democratic candidates taking on Alabama Republicans. Joe Turnham, for one, can tell you that Alabama Democrats aren't always first on the priorities list for the national Dems. But with Davis in the leadership, more help might be forthcoming for a strong challenger to someone like Mike Rogers.

Of course on the flip side, if Davis establishes himself as a leader in the House Democratic Conference, a run for governor or senate would probably go by the wayside. Now I have my doubts about whether Davis could win statewide, but he is certainly one of the stronger Alabama Democrats. The further Davis moves up the leadership ladder, the less likely that he'll run statewide.

Davis, at 38 years old, is much younger than most of his colleagues. He has plenty of time to pursue his political goals. But there does seem to be a crossroads facing Davis in the not so distant future. Davis looks certain to continue his ascent into the Democratic leadership (whether or not he ever heads the DCCC) if he is so inclined. But if he is indeed interested in a senate bid (or even running for governor), he'll have to forgo all that just to take a shot at a possible promotion.

Whatever his decision, Artur Davis is not only one of the hottest Democratic prospects in the state, but also the entire country.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rice's Bama Blast: Homecoming or Kickoff?

There's been no shortage of coverage of Condoleeza Rice's Alabama "homecoming" visit. Rice visited her home state to show British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (there is a good Iraq war/"Straw man" joke in there somewhere) the rest of the country.

Though she still demurs the notion of a presidential run, the national media's speculation endures. The ubiquitous Dick Morris has a book touting a Condi/Hillary 2008 matchup. There was even speculation last week that Rice would be elevated to VP if Cheney was forced to resign due to the Plame scandal . Closer to home, Reuters has an interesting piece viewing her Alabama trip through the lends of a possible 2008 run.

I've long been skeptical about the Beltway buzz surrounding a Rice candidacy for the following reasons:

-- She's never run for office before. The last president to never have previously served in elective office was Eisenhower.

-- She's never shown a flair for politics. She's an academic at heart and has generally eschewed the political spotlight.

-- She's no social conservative. Condi is on the record as pro-choice and pro-affirmative action. That's a tough sell in a GOP primary.

-- Of course there is the whole gender and race thing. Does a woman get a fair shake on the campaign trail? Does an African-American? Just ask Elizabeth Dole or Jessie Jackson. Actually, don't ask Jessie.

-- Finally, of course Democrats will be tired of Bush by 2008, but it is starting to look like a lot of Republicans will be ready for some new blood themselves. Condi is nothing if not a Bush loyalist, which might be too close for comfort for some on the right.

So that's why I am generally skeptical of the Rice hype. However, if Rice is seriously considering a 2008 run, then she has to know that Southern conservatives have a near veto power on the Republican nomination. And her successful (thanks to Roman Harper) trip into the "Heart of Dixie" might well be a preliminary step in a larger effort. Rice might not ever be the first choice of the hardcore GOP in the South, but if she can at least be an acceptable alternative then that might be enough.

I'll take Rice at her word that she doesn't intend to run. And even if she did I think she'd have a tough time getting the nomination. But if we are sitting here two years from now in the middle of a Rice presidentail campaign, we might be able to look back to her Alabama trip as the first step in a historic journey.

Site Update: Endorsement Watch

As you may have already noticed, I put up a permanent link to the GOP Governor Endorsement Watch. I introduced the new feature a couple of weeks ago, but just now got around to making the new button.

As I mentioned before, since this has the potential to be one of the more ideologically divisive GOP primaries I thought it'd be interesting to see where various GOP pols lined up. Certainly many will remain neutral lest they antagonize the current governor or the challenger's loyal followers. I am sure most of the GOP establishment will align themselves with Bob Riley, but there are sure to be some defectors to the Moore camp.

The current lists I have for each candidate are pretty meager, so if you are aware of any other endorsements (or see them in the future) let me know. Any Republican pol of any influence would be worth noting -- any elected official, party leader at any level, or other influential type. Include an email link if possible, but that is not available in every situation.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

3 State Senate Races to Watch

There looks to be several interesting state senate races developing. There will be at least three retirements as well as incumbents seriously challenged in both the primary and general elections. Democrats should hold on to their majority, but the Lowell Barron-led controlling faction could easily be ousted if only a couple of elections break the other way.

There will be several races I'll discuss in the coming months, but here are three which look likely to be among the most closely watched.

District 3: When three-term incumbent Tommy Ed Roberts announced his retirement, Alabama Republicans were jubilant. Roberts' district (and Roberts himself ) is widely seen as GOP leaning. With GOP friendly Morgan county as its base, the GOP needs to start winning seats like District 3 to narrow the 25-10 Dem majority in the state senate.

The GOP quickly unified around Decatur attorney Arthur Orr. Orr looks to be a solid candidate as he announced that he'd raised $100,000 just several weeks into his campaign. The Democrats, however, received good news when retiring Morgan County Probate Judge Bobby Day signaled his interest in the race. Day has served as probate judge for 36 years and is only "retiring" from that position because judge's can't run for re-election if they are over the age of 70. Day might have to square off against former State Rep. Angelo Mancuso in the Democratic primary, but Day's long record of political success should give Democrats hope that they can hold onto this vulnerable district.

Indeed an early poll by the AEA shows Day well positioned, but the GOP can argue that Day hasn't had to run a high profile partisan race in a long time. Also, voters might be a little leery of sending the 70 something Day to Montgomery as a freshman senator.

Day starts off as the favorite here, but the GOP certainly has a candidate and environment that could lead to a Republican takeover.

District 5: GOP incumbent Curt Lee is probably not leaving the state senate the way he would have preferred. Though he's said he'd already decided to forgo a re-election bid, his public announcement of his retirement only came after a security camera caught his late-night escape with a co-ed at the Capitol. Lee's announcement was certainly good news for Democrats. District 5 is probably the most Democratic seat that is currently held by a Republican.

However, in an almost mirror image of the circumstances in District 3, a veteran politician came out of nowhere to give the incumbent party a good shot at keeping the district out of the opponent's hands. In this case, the cagy veteran is Charles Bishop. There is one wrinkle though as Bishop's long political career as a state senator, ag commissioner, and gov candidate all took place as a Democrat. However, sometime after his 2002 primary loss to Don Siegelman, Bishop joined the GOP. He briefly served in the Riley administration before resigning in protest to Amendment One. Now Bishop is trying to cap off his political career with a second stint in the state senate, this time as a Republican.

Bishop's political resume' speaks for itself, but it is worth noting this will be his first race as a Republican. And as with Bobby Day in District 3, I am curious to see exactly how enthusiastic voters are about electing a politician clearly in the twilight of his career as a freshman state senator.

The district is centered around Walker county and Democrats are counting on its Democratic nature to help them pick up this seat. The only Democratic candidate I've seen mentioned is attorney Jonathan Sapp. State House Minority Leader Ken Guin could probably waltz into the senate seat, but he is not inclined to give up his influence in the lower chamber. Perhaps Democratic State Rep Tommy Sherer of Jasper would be another ideal candidate to snatch the seat for the Democrats.

Charles Bishop has to be favored to win back his old senate seat, but a strong Democratic candidate could take advantage of the nature of the district and end Bishop's career on a sour note.

District 20: Though this Birmingham district is solidly Democratic, it should host one of the more entertaining primaries of the cycle. This race will pit two Democratic legislators against each other in the primary as incumbent Sundra Escott is being challenged by State Rep Oliver Robinson. Escott has had a rocky term as she's been accused of ethics violations and came very close to resigning. Assuming she does run for re-election, Oliver Robinson will be a tough challenger. Robinson, a former NBA player, is serving his second term in the State House and is now looking to move up. In fact, I was told by a Democratic insider a couple of years ago that Robinson is a Democratic up-and-comer to keep an eye on.

Escott has been in the legislature for 25 years, but given her current problems and an opponent with Robinson's strengths, I think she will be fighting uphill to win again.
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There are of course other compelling story lines in other districts. Hap Myers is retiring in District 34 and Hari Anne Smith's run for governor should yield another open seat. Also, I am told there will be a GOP State Rep challenging an incumbent in the primary. Republicans will surely target Pat Lindsay and Gary Tanner, who both won by narrow margins in 2002. And we'll see if the Republicans field strong challengers against entrenched Democratic incumbents as they've threatened.

2006 has the potential to be a watershed year as the state senate looks on the verge of a leadership shakeup. Though I've only looked at 3 races here, there will most certainly be more to come.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Auditor Activity

Another Republican has entered the Auditor's race. Wes Allen, a Troy University employee, announced his candidacy this week. Allen is the son of sometimes controversial State Rep Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). You may remember Gerald Allen from his recent battle to ban school library books with gay themes or characters. Allen's bill didn't go anywhere in the legislature, but it got plenty of attention both in the state and national media.

Allen's entry further divides a field that already had no clear frontrunner. None of the announced candidates are well known or have prior elective experience. Unless a higher profile candidate (say a Jim Bennett type) enters the race, the election will almost certainly revolve around each candidate's home base.

Samantha Shaw is the Montgomery County GOP chair, Wes Allen has ties to Tuscaloosa, Chess Bedsole's roots are in Mobile, and Tripp Skipper is based in Auburn. Assuming no more candidates emerge (which is no sure bet) the race will be won by the candidate who can secure his or her base and make inroads into the rest of the state. This race seems headed for a runoff, as there is no reason to expect one candidate to run away from the pack.

If I had to guess I'd expect a Shaw/Bedsole runoff, but it is really too early to try to handicap such a fluid race.

Oh, and the Democrats still don't have a candidate.

Yates Goes Local

Former Civil Appeals Judge Sharon Yates may have been ousted by Republican Tommy Bryan in the 2004 GOP sweep of state judicial races, but she is already preparing for a comeback. But instead of running statewide (as Yates has done three of the last four election cycles), she has her sights set on a district judgeship in Montgomery.

Yates will take on incumbent Republican judge Lucie McLemore in what should be a close race. I am surprised that Yates has chosen to run in this local race instead of trying to reclaim a seat somewhere on the state judiciary. While Yates was no doubt discouraged by her 2004 loss, 2006 should be a much more friendly environment for Democratic candidates.

Even though she lost, Yates led the Democratic ticket in 2004 by claiming 48% of the vote. Certainly without the baggage of a presidential race, Yates could ease her way back onto one of the Appeals Courts. Yet for whatever reason, she is letting the torch pass to a new batch of Democratic candidates.

Yates' decision to bypass the state judiciary highlights a growing problem for Alabama Democrats. Though 2006 is likely to provide a much more friendlier climate for Democratic judicial candidates than we've seen in several years, the Dems only have candidates in 4 of the 11 judicial seats up for elections this cycle. The GOP, on the other hand, already has declared candidates for every seat. (You can track the state judicial races on the Alabama Elections Directory)

I am sure Democrats will field viable candidates for most, if not all, of these races. But as they are on the verge of being completely shut out of the state judicial process, Democrats need to show a little more urgency. Democrats won't be able to even the score, unless they field a team.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

How Lucy Gets Her Groove Back

It is no secret that Lucy Baxley's gubernatorial campaign seems to have lost some traction over the last few months. Polls in January showed her easily defeating Don Siegelman in the Democratic primary as well as leading the Republicans in general election matchups. Yet anecdotal evidence and recent polls have revealed that her leads have not only disappeared, but that she has some ground to make up to even make it to the general election. The recent Survey USA poll of the Democratic primary (which shows Baxley down 30 points to Don Siegelman) should have opened some eyes among Baxley's supporters.

Since I haven't seen much new from Baxley's camp in a while, I thought I'd offer the Lieutenant Governor my unpaid (unless she offers) advice on getting her campaign back on track.

MEMORANDUM
TO: Lucy Baxley
FROM: AlabamaElections
Re: Making You Governor

1) Find your cause: I know the folksy stuff about values and common sense has gotten you this far, but I don't think it'll take you to the top. You have to define yourself on a set of issues and fast. Here's my suggestion: Come out strong for a new constitution.

Everyone in Alabama knows that the current constitution is too long and cumbersome. There are groups all over the state dedicated to revamping the constitution who would be thrilled to line up behind a viable candidate supporting their cause. They would provide an already established infrastructure of volunteers, money, and attention that would almost instantly revitalize your campaign. Of course there are issues about how to reform it, and how it will affect education, and the possibility of a tax hike. Those concerns are all legitimate, but they don't matter that much. Work out those details with your advisers, then come out guns blazing as Alabama's best hope for a new constitution.

There will of course be detractors (mostly on the right) who will attack the possibility of a new constitution as a way to raise taxes. But, that's ok. Attacks from a vocal out-of-the-mainstream minority won't do any harm. Also, this would put the other candidates back on their heels. Probably only Roy Moore would oppose it altogether. Riley and Siegelman would most likely give a "no, but" or "yes, if" type response. All of a sudden you are transformed from the candidate who doesn't really stand for anything, to the only one with the guts to stand up and lead for change. Constitutional reform gives your campaign a centerpiece, a cause. Quit riding in parades, and start leading a crusade.

2) You're No Blanco: Don Siegelman showed uncharacteristically poor political sense when he publicly implied that Alabama voters won't trust a woman to respond effectively to an emergency or crisis. Just because Don was dumb to say it out loud, doesn't mean he doesn't have a point. Your campaign seemed to really lose its steam after Hurricane Katrina as Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco was widely seen to have been ill-prepared and in over her head. It's certainly possible that the Alabama public, consciously or not, sees you as a potential Blanco. That's not really fair, but this is politics.

So fight back. Turn this potential weakness into a strength. Develop a comprehensive readiness plan. Talk to anyone possible (federal, state, county, municipal) who will talk to you about emergency management. Camp out on the Alabama coast while the rebuilding is taking place. Use any power your office has to help speed it along. If FEMA or state officials are dragging their feet on anything, publicly (and loudly) call them on it. Develop a command of the issues, demonstrate a passion for the cause, and show the strength and leadership to make yourself heard. Instead of having voters wonder whether or not you'll be "another Blanco" when they walk into the voting booth, go ahead and prove to them you aren't.

3) Take it up a notch: You acknowledged interest in the being governor early on and have been officially in the race for months. That's fine. You've been able to raise money and get more attention than you would have otherwise. But somewhere in this perpetual campaign, you've lost some spark and let things pass you by. It's time to reassert yourself.

Run a week or two of commercials introducing yourself to the voters. I am not talking about the type of ads where they start by showing the house you were born in and end with you reading to your grandkids. Talk straight to the camera. Tell the voters who you are and why you're running. No cliches or pablum. And end it with an offer to send them a pamphlet explaining your plan to reform the constitution like Bob Riley did with his education plan in 2002 (except don't use the horse). You've been raising money for months , now use a little of it. This doesn't have to be a major ad buy, just enough for the average voter to see it once or twice.
Many voters already know you and are comfortable with you. Nothing prescribed here should change that. But there are also many voters who are either unfamiliar or haven't formed an opinion. These three steps would go a long way in introducing (or re-introducing you) to the public, neutralizing your perceived weaknesses, and starting the process of turning them into strengths.

We're not trying to create a "new" Lucy, or even benching the "old" Lucy. But it is time for voters to see the Real Lucy.

Nall and Libertarians in Joint Effort

Loretta Nall became the latest entry into the governor's race this week. Though Nall is the president and founder of the U.S. Marijuana Party, she wants to run under the Libertarian banner.

Nall, who lives near Alexander City, does have a campaign platfrom that consists of more than just drug legalization. In fact, her platform is worth a look if for no other reason than the combination of positions from both the liberal and conservative side. Thus, it is difficult to say whether her candidacy would have more appeal to Republicans or Democrats.

The Libertarians must collect around 40,000 signatures for Nall, or any other Libertarian, to appear on the 2006 ballot. Nall's site has downloadable forms should you be inclined to be one of the 40,000.

The 2002 Libertarian cancidate John Sophocleus received about 1.7% of the vote (23,000+ votes). That doesn't sound especially impressive, but it certainly could have made the difference in Bob Riley's 3,000 vote win over Don Siegelman.

Assuming Nall makes the 2006 ballot, it'll be interesting to see if her candidacy can improve on Sophocleus' totals. Certainly, this governor's race has the potential to be a nail-biter, so Nall's candidacy has the potential to help determine the winner.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

AL GOP Back Online

After a not-so-brief hiatus, the Alabama Republican Party is again part of the internet community. The new site is part of some sort of new effort to coordinate state sites with the national party. The site has plenty of useful content and I am especially impressed with their "events calendar" which lets the rank and file know what's going on in there community.

But the site does have a little of that artificial, cookie cutter feel to it. For example, why does the entire "photo gallery" consist of President Bush hugging black youth in Philadelphia, PA.

I thought the Republicans wanted power in the hands of the states. I was hoping for some candids of Jerry Lathan doing the Limbo.

Bush's Bama Blues

Our old friend SurveyUSA has done another 50 state poll gauging each state's opinion of the President. The numbers don't look good for Bush.

The good news for state Republican's is that Alabama is one of Bush's best states. The bad news for AL GOPers is that more Alabamians disapprove of Bush than approve.

The poll has 48% of Alabamians approving of Bush, while 49% of the state disapproves. An identical poll taken in September had Bush at a 51/44 approval rating. Obviously, this is not a trend Republicans are happy to see.

Of course there is plenty of time for Bush to turn his numbers around, but if for some reason the president's numbers are still in the dumps a year from now, the AL GOP could be in for a rough election night.

Alabama Republicans rely on the unpopularity of the likes of Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton as liberal bogeymen to tar local Dems. While, liberal Democrats will no doubt still be anathema to most Alabamians, if George W. Bush has more detractors than defenders then the GOP's silver bullet suddenly loses a lot of its speed.

"All politics are local", as Tip O'Neill famously said and for the most part Alabama elections will revolve around Alabama issues. But believe me, Alabama Republicans will find 2006 a much more enjoyable election year if they are able to embrace the president, instead of running away from him.

Callahan Cleared and Ready to Run

Ex State Sen George Callahan was recently cleared after a three year ethics investigation. The allegations surrounding Callahan had revolved around discretionary funds steered to a company employing his son. The Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Callahan had broken the law, but Troy King's office is not going to pursue the case further and has "closed the file" on the case.

Callahan was defeated in a very close race by Gary Tanner in 2002 and it is certainly possible that this charge, first alleged during the campaign, made the difference. Tanner is apparently gearing up for a comeback bid for office. He's been mum about what office he'll seek, but I've been told he's eyeing his old state senate district.

If Callahan does indeed seek a rematch with Gary Tanner, District 35 will no doubt be one of the premier races for control of the state senate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Polls: A Moore Bounce and A Baxley Meltdown

Survey USA, in a poll conducted for WKRG-Mobile, tested both parties potential gubernatorial primaries.

GOP Primary:
Riley : 44%
Moore : 38%

Dem Primary:
Siegelman: 54%
Baxley: 24%

The GOP poll is in the ballpark of what other polls have shown and what I would expect. It does give Moore a significant bounce since the early October Mobile Register Poll that had the race 44/25 in favor of Riley. Moore's numbers are probably somewhere between the 38/25 figures, but it does show positive movement for the challenger. Riley, on the other hand, seems stuck at 44%. And while he is in the lead for now, he'll of course have to grow his numbers to beat Moore. These numbers also highlight the likelihood that an additional GOP candidate of the Harri Anne Smith variety, would lead to a runoff.

Now the Democratic side...Boy, what has happened to Lucy Baxley? Many, including myself, scoffed when Siegelman asserted that post-Katrina polls had him leading Baxley. It now appears that Siegelman was right on the money. Before I get carried away, we of course have to acknowledge this is just one poll and could be flawed in some way. But SurveyUSA, though a national firm, has a lot of experience in Alabama races and is one of the more accurate firms in the country.

I am not sure how to explain these poll results and the Baxley meltdown it shows. Maybe it is "Blanco" problem that is affecting Baxley. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, like Baxley a Democrat and fmr. Lieutenant Governor, was widely panned in the days after Hurricane Katrina as weak and ineffective. Don Siegelman, in his now infamous Tuscaloosa News meeting, inferred that voters don't feel a woman can handle some of the disaster or emergency duties of a governor. Siegelman was roundly criticized for his statement and later apologized, but maybe he's right after all.

Or perhaps all of the attention Siegelman got from his recent legal and political troubles rallied Democrats around the former governor. Whatever, the reason Lucy Baxley needs to find a way to stop the bleeding.

If this poll is indeed not a true reflection of the current state of the Democratic race, Baxley needs to publicize one of her internal polls or find a third party poll to refute these findings. While the public as a whole hasn't yet tuned into the race, there are certainly opinion leaders and potential financial supporters who are following it closely. And many will think twice about backing Baxley if they think she is 30 points down to Don Siegelman.

Also, Baxley needs to start publicly touting her platform. Both Don Siegelman and Roy Moore have been promoting their plans and driving the debate. Baxley needs to give voters a reason to support her besides her charm and red dress.

I'll be interested to see if future polls confirm these surprising results. But Lucy Baxley doesn't have the luxury of running a frontrunner's campaign anymore; she needs to run like she's 30 points behind, because she just might be.

Tyson Makes it Official

As loyal readers of AlabamaElections have known for weeks, Mobile County DA John Tyson, Jr. is running for Attorney General. Tyson, a Democrat, looks to have the nomination wrapped up and will be a strong candidate against presumed GOP opponent AG Troy King.

Tyson "officially" declared his candidacy in Montgomery on Monday. A district attorney for 11 years, Tyson has established a record as a vigorous, "tough on crime" prosecutor. Along with his extensive record of crime fighting, Tyson has been a political dynamo. In addition to the 14 years he served on the Alabama Board of Education, Tyson recently won re-election with 58% in Republican leaning Mobile County.

Tyson's combination of law and order experience and his political base in Mobile will likely cause problems for Troy King. In comparison to Tyson, King has little experience and his own previous political bid (a 2002 race for Secretary of State) was unsuccessful (King failed to make the runoff against two unimposing fellow GOPers).

King, who was appointed to fill the office after Bill Pryor's elevation to the federal bench, has had some ups and downs as AG. Most recently he's been involved in intrigue involving the Auburn Board of Trustees and campaign contributions.

I am sure King is raising a lot of money and will be a tough opponent, but as long as Tyson runs a smart race I think he is the man to beat.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hubbert Be Thy Name

Arguably Alabama's most powerful politico, AEA chief Paul Hubbert gave the Tuscaloosa News his analysis on how the 2006 elections are shaping up. It should be noted that the AEA runs the most extensive polling operation on state politics, so Hubbert's views are no doubt shaped by hard data.

Hubbert gives Bob Riley the edge in the GOP primary ("At this point I still see Riley being hard to beat"), but doesn't count out Roy Moore ("I think Moore had a solid base among Christian conservatives, but unless he grows that base, I don't see him taking Riley out in the primary.").

Hubbert is of course a former Democratic nominee for governor and a frequent supporter of Democratic candidates. So his thoughts on the Democratic race are all the more relevant.
"Right now I think the Democratic nomination is up for grabs," Hubbert said. "I think Don still feels he has a solid base of support, which he does. "But I also think Lucy feels she can win the primary, which she can, so I think [the Democratic nomination] is very much in play."
Hubbert's view of the Democratic race as a virtual jump ball certainly jibes with public polls and my own analysis (here and here) of the stalling (if not reversal) of Lucy Baxley's numbers.

The Democrats will likely keep control of both houses of the Alabama legislature, according to Hubbard. That's not an especially bold claim though, as I am not even sure Twinkle Andress expects a GOP legislature come 2007.

In terms of the AEA's 2006 activity, Hubbert seems likely to support the Democratic nominee for governor, but does leave the door cracked for a surprise Riley endorsement. But Roy Moore's "school choice" views are anathema to the man who has made public education a dominant force in Alabama politics.

While his comments are always interesting, Hubbert plays his cards pretty close to the vest. But before the votes are counted on election night, I am sure Paul Hubbert will have had as much impact as anyone in the state.

Another Day, Another Poll

The Mobile Register released another poll on the Alabama governor's race. The poll only tested potential general election matchups.

I'll get right to the results:

Riley: 44%
Baxley: 33%

Riley: 46%
Siegelman: 31%

Baxley: 44%
Moore: 37%

Moore: 40%
Siegelman: 40%


The Mobile Register has plenty of solid analysis and even some of the internal subset information, so you'll want to read that.

My general reaction to the poll is that it confirms how wide open the race is. The only matchup that wouldn't be close is a Baxley/Moore race. From these numbers, I'd expect Baxley to win by double digits.

But although Riley's camp is probably pleased with these numbers, they still have to be worried that he can't seem to break (or even get especially close) to the 50% number he'll need for a clear win. The 44% against Baxley surely worries the Riley folks, but I am more surprised that Riley can't break the 50% mark against the recently sore-luck Siegelman.

Similarly, as I discussed last week, I don't understand why Lucy Baxley isn't polling farther ahead of Don Siegelman. Baxley only runs 2%-4% ahead of Don Siegelman after arguably the worst month of his political career? If Baxley can't pull away from Siegelman with all of his self-inflicted wounds, what will happen if Siegelman is actually able to get past his legal troubles and develop some sort of momentum?

Ultimately, this poll provides some warning signs and a glimmer of hope for each candidate. Riley's resurrected his political career post Katrina; Lucy Baxley looks strong against either Republican; and even Roy Moore and Don Siegelman are still in the hunt.

There's roughly 13 months until Alabama voters will finally weigh in on this race, but I expect it to seem like a lot longer.

Blog the Vote!

Internet consultant and fellow blogger Jeff Vreeland left the sidelines and declared his candidacy for the State House today. Vreeland is running for House District 43 currently held by Republican incumbent Mary Sue McClurkin. Vreeland, also a Republican, will challenge the incumbent in the June primary.

Vreeland, an active alumnus of Troy State, is focusing on three primary issues:

  1. Illegal immigration and the financial impact on residents
  2. Increased funding to area schools and educational programs for children
  3. Alabama Constitutional reform that will return powers to the local-government level

Running in a Hoover-based seat, Vreeland's progressive, yet locally protective views probably fit his potential constituency well.

Vreeland will no doubt start as an underdog, but he seems energetic and ambitious. It'll be interesting to watch his campaign progress. Check out Jeff's campaign site at http://jeffvreeland.us or Jeff's blog.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Endorsement Watch

I am happy to introduce a new feature here at AlabamaElections. In attempt to monitor the potentially divisive Alabama GOP gubernatorial primary, I have started keeping track of each candidate's endorsements. To that end, I have created an Endorsement Watch for the Republican primary.

Certainly, Bob Riley should be expected to secure more endorsements than challenger Roy Moore due to Riley's incumbency factor and his extensive GOP establishment ties. But Moore's followers are nothing if not loyal and most Republican politicians won't wish to antagonize them.

So I think it will be interesting to see which politicians go on record in favor of one candidate or the other. I was able to pick out a few endorsements from some of the coverage following each candidate's announcement. And an article in D.C. mag Rollcall (subscription required) felt out the AL delegation on the governor's race.

But I am sure the current list has only a fraction of the endorsements to come. So if you see a reference to an endorsement of either Riley or Moore by a politician, opinion leader, or anyone of influence let me know. If possible attach a link with some verification of the endorsement, but that might not be available in all circumstances.

So take a look at the first unveiling of the Endorsement Watch and keep your eyes out for more to add!

And They're Off!

Dana Beyerle has a great piece in the Tuscaloosa News setting the stage for the 2006 governor's race. Read it in its entirety to get a sense of where the race begins now that the four major candidates (sorry, Harri Anne)have entered.

I'll just mention a couple of items that piqued my interest.

1) Taxes: Don Siegelman and Roy Moore are both banging the anti-tax drum pretty hard. After the Amendment One disaster, Bob Riley has shown no eagerness to raise (or even discuss) taxes. Lucy Baxley is the most open to new taxes. Though stipulating any tax increase will have to be approved by voters, Baxley isn't taking the hard line that her opponents are embracing.

2) Though she was the first official candidate, Lucy Baxley has been pretty quiet thus far in the campaign. She explains why:
"This is the No. 1 focus of my campaign, raising money."

If she is raising money well then she has used the time wisely. But this is also time that could have been used to develop a badly needed image for Baxley. Baxley still has to introduce herself to much of the electorate and explain why she wants to be governor. The broad themes of competence and values that she has used successfully in the past won't be enough in this race.

Roy Moore has released a very specific platform and Don Siegelman has recently added seniors' issues to his lottery advocacy. Bob Riley has a record of economic growth to run on, but Baxley has maintained her characteristically noncommittal style thus far.

It is past time for Lucy Baxley to discuss why she wants to be governor and what she will do if elected. If she wants voters to take her candidacy seriously, she needs to take the voters seriously.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Governor Gas Guzzler


Bob Riley has gotten himself into a miniature public relations flap as he continues to use a gas-guzzling SUV for official business while rising gas prices are putting a squeeze on many Alabamians.

Riley's practice of taking a Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition has caught public attention as some governors are trading in their SUVs for more economical fare. Governors Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Bill Richardson (D-NM) have both made the switch to the Ford Escape Hybrid. The hybrids are roughly twice as efficient as the SUVs. Both governors are seeking to lead by example in emphasizing conservation during these times of rising gas prices.

Riley's staff explains the necessity of the SUV as a security precaution. But if the president's brother can figure out how ensure his security in a hybrid, it shouldn't be that difficult for Bob Riley.

As campaign season has now begun in earnest, Riley needs to realize that as the incumbent every move he makes will be scrutinized. This situation gives him a chance to show proactive, practical leadership. We'll see what he does.

Oh and no word on whether Nancy Worley will trade in her Ford Expedition.

See Don. See Dick. See Don Run from Dick.

Don Siegelman is having a bad month.

First, he bungled an attempt to inoculate himself against an expected indictment. Instead of clearing the air about his upcoming legal problems, he somehow wound up attacking Lucy Baxley's chromosomes. Then he had to apologize. Siegelman pal Redding Pitt then interjected with an obscene email to a journalist.

Now, Don Siegelman has to see his name linked with Alabama's guiltiest innocent man Richard Scrushy. I didn't follow the Scrushy ordeal that closely, but I know enough to know that no aspiring governor wants to see his name linked with the HealthSouth mess.

Siegelman's defense is of the "I was just doing my job" variety:
"I am always glad to recommend Alabama companies, that was part of my job, to encourage companies that I brought to Alabama to use Alabama companies like BE&K, Harbert, Blue Cross Blue Shield and HealthSouth."
It doesn't sound like Siegelman really did anything untoward here, but read the details and decide for yourself.

I am afraid, though, that if Don Siegelman doesn't stop letting his name get dragged into all these legal matters, Alabama voters might start to think he's a little shady.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Riley Cabinet: Only "Dedicated Christians" Need Apply

In his first public event since announcing his re-election campaign, Bob Riley spoke to a gathering of Baptist ministers. Riley's remarks, which focused mainly around his faith, seemed well-received as he geared them toward his religious audience. Though Riley's speech was heavy on religious imagery and rhetoric, the governor didn't stray into the hyperbole sometimes associated with his primary opponent.

Well except for maybe this one thing.

[Riley]described a Cabinet full of "dedicated Christians" as being his greatest blessing as governor.
Riley wasn't trying to be controversial with this statement and it's not a blatantly offensive rant of the Hank Erwin variety. And no doubt it drew a lot of head-nods from the audience full of Baptist preachers. But does Bob Riley mean that being a "dedicated Christian" is a requirement to be in his cabinet? No Jews need to apply of course. Catholics...maybe. What about a Lutheran who misses church every now and then? Is he "dedicated" enough?

I am obviously making more of this than Riley intended as I doubt the governor uses religiosity as a litmus test for cabinet appointments. But this was his first speech after announcing for re-election against an opponent whose political record has centered around one issue, so it might be a little naive to think Riley didn't know what he was saying.

Though Riley implicitly criticized Moore's religious grandstanding at his re-election announcement, it appears the governor may also be trying out a little "Moore-lite" of his own.

The Wes Wing

Monday night saw former Democratic presidential candidate, and four star general, Wesley Clark swoop into Birmingham to raise money and rally the masses. From all accounts Clark gave a rousing call to action to the Democratic faithful. Both the Birmingham News and Mobile Register covered the Clark event.

Clark is obviously putting himself in a position to run for president again in 2008. Many of Clark's problems in his 2004 bid came from his late-entry into the race. Indeed Clark only joined the race when it looked like none of the other candidates could catch then front-runner Howard Dean. Clark was right that Howard Dean could be beaten, but he was mistaken in thinking that he was the man to do it.

The most interesting thing to me about Clark is the appeal that he seems to have to Alabama Democrats. Clark's political positioning and rhetoric resembles Howard Dean more than Howell Heflin. Wesley Clark has taken liberal stances on almost every issue from the Iraq War, to taxes, to abortion, and affirmative action.

Clark, though unsuccessful in 2004, has somehow managed to remain not only tolerable but wildly popular among the various wings of the Democratic Party. Clark is one of the few national Democrats with whom Southern Democrats wouldn't mind being photographed. Yet Clark is also the favored candidate of the unabashedly liberal blogosphere of the DailyKos variety. Clark was infamously supported (and subsequently embarrassed) by controversial documentarian Michael Moore, but Clark also was seen as the candidate supported (surreptitiously) by establishment Dems Bill and Hillary Clinton. Even self declared conservative Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) was on the Clark bandwagon.

Even though Clark's Birmingham rally seemed to go over well and he raised some money for House Democrats, the Alabama Democratic Party might want to make sure future star attractions don't give the AL GOP as much ammunition as Clark could. I doubt many House Democrats want to be associated with the Michael Moore embracing, gay rights advocating, Iraq war bashing rhetoric that Clark (at times) has been engaged.

I suppose that Clark's military background gives his anti-war stance credibility without appearing weak. And Clark's Southern roots (he was raised in Arkansas) imply he can relate to and fight for Southern votes should he again be a candidate.

But primarily I am amazed at how Wesley Clark is able to stay on such good terms with the various wings and factions in the notoriously fractious Democratic Party. People like Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, and other elected officials have gotten the most attention in the upcoming Democratic presidential race. But with his universal appeal to Democrats, an impressive biography, and lessons learned from 2004, you shouldn't look past Wes Clark.

Brewbaker Bags It

GOP State Rep. Dick Brewbaker has announced his retirement from the State House. Brewbaker's seat is heavily GOP and although I haven't seen any names floated as candidates yet, this race will surely be decided in the Republican primary.

The 2006 cycle looks to see alot of turnover in the state legislature. Three members of the State Senate and six in the State House have already announced their decision not to run for re-election. More vacancies are sure to develop as the April filing deadline looms closer.

To stay current on all the 2006 campaigns, from governor all the way to the State House, check out the AlabamaElections Directory. And let me know if there are errors or omissions that need to be addressed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tom and the Gang

The Talladega Daily Home has an interesting piece by Chris Norwood detailing Alabama's GOP US House members and their connections to Tom Delay.

After years of finely walking the line between unethical and illegal, Tom Delay has recently found himself on the wrong side of a couple of indictments. Delay has been forced to temporarily remove himself from the GOP leadership pending the outcome of his trial.

Delay has been the primary financial and strategic leader among House Republicans during their current majority reign. In that role Delay has personally given campaign money to most House GOPers. Alabama's Republican members are no different. Indeed, Delay has donated to the campaign warchests of all five of Alabama's GOP members.

The Daily Home has a breakdown of each member's Delay funds:

Mike Rogers - $30,000
Robert Aderholt - $19,571
Jo Bonner - $10,000
Terry Everett - $6,020
Spencer Bachus - $1,166

Delay's generosity logically seems to extend to those who need it the most. Mike Rogers represents a district that the legislature drew to favor a Democrat, so though he's performed well so far, he may never truly be "safe" while representing that district in its current form. And though Robert Aderholt is now seen to have a solid hold his 4th district, he had three fierce campaigns from Democrats before they decided to leave him alone.

Though a handful of Republicans have refunded the Delay money, no Alabama Republicans seem likely to follow that course. Even Mike Rogers, who could conceivably be hurt by his connections to Delay, has refused to distance himself from the indicted Texan.
"Rogers believes DeLay is an effective leader, and a strong proponent of conservative, pro-growth policies that have helped the hard working families and seniors of Alabama," Macomber said. "Also, the congressman knows DeLay has not been convicted of anything, and consequently he has no intention of returning anything while the judicial process runs its course."
The Democrats are trying to make some political hay out of Rogers' close ties to Delay. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee even paid for some robo-calls in the 3rd district trying to increase pressure on Rogers to return the Delay money. The DCCC is making a game effort and Rogers loyalty to Delay could potentially cost him some votes down the line. But this type of issue is not going to inflict any significant damage on Rogers (or any of the other Alabama GOP Reps.).

Besides, the Democrats need a credible candidate to face Rogers before such attacks (legitimate or not) can bear any fruit.

Pitt Happens

Lee P at A Bama Blog beat me to it, but I wanted to make sure this story didn't fall through the cracks.

In a moment of confusion and embarrassment, Redding Pitt, a former US Attorney and AL Dem Chair, had to apologize to a Mobile Register editor after erroneously sending a profanity-laced tirade through email.

"F--- the b-----ds. We can beat them. I am serious. Redding."

That was the message Pitt relayed to a befuddled newspaper editor. Adding more confusion to the mess is the fact that the editor didn't even email Pitt in the first place. The editor emailed Don Siegelman in the hopes of getting the former governor to comment on an upcoming story. Somehow, an email to Siegelman begat the above response by Pitt.

Of course Siegelman assured the editor that the reply was not from him and Pitt promptly apologized for the "crude" error.

But the most interesting question (and one not addressed by the Mobile Register) is just who are the "b-----ds" that Pitt is sure they can "beat"? It doesn't take a psychic to guess that Pitt just might be referring to Siegelman's upcoming legal troubles.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Roy Moore: Judge. Candidate. Poet?


I've had my eye on this page at Snopes.com, a site specializing in verifying or debunking common urban legends. The site mentions a poem supposedly written by an Alabama gubernatorial candidate. Snopes still has the status of this urban legend as "incomplete" meaning they have not determined if the information in question can be attributed to the alleged author.

Well, luckily PoliticalWire (a great source for national political news) points to proof that this poem was indeed authored by Alabama's own Roy Moore. Slate and the Atlantic Monthly independently confirmed the work as a Moore original. I think the poem speaks for itself and frankly I don't know what to say about it.

So without further ado, here is Roy Moore's poem "America the Beautiful":

America the Beautiful,
or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride;
I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters,
Abortion on demand
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly
poisoned by cocaine,
Choosing to indulge their lusts,
when God has said abstain.

From sea to shining sea,
our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love
and a need to always pray.

We've kept God in our temples,
how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool,
and Heaven is His throne.

We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges
who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer
in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry,
that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God,
from Whom we cannot hide?
What then is left for us to do,
but stem this evil tide?

If we who are His children,
will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face
and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven
and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land
and those who live within.

But, America the Beautiful,
if you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God
withdraw His hand from Thee.

GOP Gov Poll: Riley's Up; Moore Down, but Not Out

The Mobile Register released a new poll Sunday giving us an early look at the Roy Moore/Bob Riley GOP primary. The poll fills in some of the gaps by other recent polling testing the gubernatorial candidates favorability ratings.

It should be noted that the poll was taken Oct 3 - Oct 7. There is no way to be certain, but it is possible that Moore's October 3rd announcement and subsequent press attention bolstered Moore's poll numbers. The next poll of the race should be a more reliable indicator of the actual positioning of the candidates.

The poll, taken among likely GOP primary votes, shows the candidates current support as following:

Riley: 44%
Moore: 25%

The first reaction of many to this poll has been to proclaim it good news for Riley. The Mobile-Register quotes two academics (Keith Nicholls and William Stewart) who generally agree that Riley should be pleased with these results. Likewise, many of my blogger brethren like RedStateDiaries and Alabama-Democrat (both Moore detractors) take heart at these early numbers.

On one hand I agree that the poll could have been worse for Riley. Indeed a January poll showed Moore leading 44% - 35%. Riley has certainly improved his standing in the intervening months. Also, as I mentioned above, these results don't take into account a Riley announcement "bounce", whereas the poll was taken at the peak time to maximize any Moore "bounce". So in reality the spread between the two might even be a bit larger.

However, I don't think this poll is an unabashedly positive place for Riley's campaign to start. For starters, I'll cite the often repeated and usually true maxim that an incumbent is in trouble if he is polling under 50%. The logic is that most after, 3 and 1/2 years, have already made up their minds on Bob Riley and are much more likely to ultimately break for the challenger. Such logic is complicated in this case due to Moore's unusually high (for a challenger) name recognition. However, a recent poll showed that more voters were unfamiliar with Roy Moore than with Riley, which gives Moore more room to see his support grow.

This poll, while giving Riley a solid lead, shows that it might be difficult for Riley to reach the magic 50% mark to avoid (or eventually win) a runoff. Especially if Harri Anne Smith, or another credible Republican, joins the race, Riley's path to 50% gets even trickier. Smith is probably not a serious threat to win the primary, but if she can siphon off even 5-10% then a runoff is much more likely. Though Riley could win a runoff, it is likely that the momentum would then be with Moore.

Additionally, the Mobile Register -USA poll included only likely GOP voters. It is no secret that Roy Moore will attempt to broaden the primary electorate to include his potentially unorthodox coalition of supporters. Whether it is anti-establishment independents, conservative rural Democrats, or black Democrats tempted by Moore's religious appeals, this poll probably missed many of the voters that could ultimately support Moore.

The Mobile Register even remarked that previous polls have shown Moore generating more "across the aisle" support than Riley. I have previously said and still maintain that many liberals Democrats and left-leaning independents may ultimately bypass the Democratic primary and support Riley. However, the polling, at least to this point, does show Moore with more appeal to non-Republicans. The concept of a "hidden" Moore vote looming over the GOP primary will be with through the primary, but it cannot be entirely discounted until the votes are tallied.

On a final note, Riley does seem to have been able to successfully put the Amendment One debacle behind him, at least with a majority of the GOP electorate. However, tax cuts and more specifically opposition to higher taxes has been the defining issue of the Republican party for a generation. Once Roy Moore and his allies resurrect the issue and remind GOP voters of Riley's "tax hike" advocacy, I think a softening of Riley's numbers could occur. Whereas Moore's support, although significantly less in this poll, is probably more committed to their candidate no matter which way the political winds blow during the next several months.

Again, I think on whole this poll has some good news for Riley and his political revival over the past two years has been very impressive. I just wanted to weigh in and discuss why this poll might not be quite the "golden ticket" some Riley supporters would like it to be.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Riley's Running


In a widely anticipated announcement, Bob Riley declared himself a candidate for re-election. He talked up the Alabama economy, focused on fiscal conservatism, and took a none-too-subtle jab at Roy Moore's bread and butter.

"Some say they can no longer acknowledge God in government. I think that's sad. Because I acknowledge him every day - in speeches, in the office, in meetings, schools and churches. We can all do that every day in the way we live our lives," Riley said. Riley said that while he talks about his faith often, "I have never and will never use faith or my belief in our almighty God for political motives
I'll have more reaction to this in the next 24-48 hours, but the pieces are now in place for the Republican clash of titans we've long been anticipating.

Weekend Jambalaya


I wanted to briefly mention a few stories that slipped through the cracks while Roy Moore and Don Siegelman dominated the political news this week...


Sessions Makes Some Waves
The often low-profile Jeff Sessions has been asserting himself lately. Sessions was one of only nine senators (all Republicans) who voted against an effort led by John McCain to impose restrictions on the treatment of suspected terrorists. Similarly, Sessions has publicly voiced concerns about Bush Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Earlier in the week Sessions seemed generally supportive of Miers. But as conservatives nationwide have grown increasingly hostile to Miers, Sessions has also indicated some reservations. The common link between these two separate issues is Sessions' willingness to buck his own Senate leadership (and even President Bush) to push a solid, and unflinchingly pure brand of conservatism.

Worley Makes Some Progress
Nancy Worley has gotten her share of criticism over the implementation of a new voter registration system. Yet after some false starts, it appears that the new system will be completely in place in time for the 2006 general elections. I still think Worley faces an uphill road to re-election, but if this new system is well received in the coming months then she just might be able to generate some momentum.

Jean Brown Rides Again
As expected ex-Justice Jean Brown is going to run for the open State Supreme Court seat left by Bernard Harwood. Fresh off her primary defeat in 2004 by Moore ally Tom Parker, Brown says she does not regret her vote to remove the 10 Commandments, but she will run a more grassroots focused campaign instead of relying solely on television spots as she did in 2004. Brown is expected to face a primary challenge from Appeals Judge (and Moore supporter) Glenn Murdock. Though it will not be as high profile as the governor's race or the Chief Justice race, this race will be an indicator of the relative strength of the business and social conservative wings of the GOP. Interestingly, both Brown and Murdock, as well as likely Dem opponent John England, lost their last race for State Supreme Court.

Judge Craig Pittman Runs for Re-election
Civil Appeals Judge Craig Pittman announced his bid for re-election. Pittman, a Republican, was first elected in 2000 in his first run for office. Pittman defeated Democratic incumbent Roger Monroe by less than 1%. In fact, Pittman's margin of victory was the narrowest of any statewide winner in 2000. Of the four sitting appeals judges running for re-election in 2006, Democrats would be wise to target Pittman as the incumbent with the weakest political track record. Though it is still early, Pittman has no announced primary or general election opponent yet.

AL GOP Technical Problems
And in a final note, I'd like to point out that the Alabama Republican website has been "undergoing maintenance" for several weeks now. The Alabama Democrats, who themselves have a good online presence, have poked fun at the GOP about the delay from time to time. But it's not a partisan issue of course and doesn't have any larger implications, but this is several weeks of the GOP missing donations or volunteers via the web. What's the hold-up AL GOP?

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