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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Riley Approval at 50%

In what has become a monthly exercise, SurveyUSA has released its October Governor's ratings. Bob Riley clocks in with a job approval rating right at 50% with 45% disapproving of his performance.

Though these numbers are an improvement on his pre-Katrina standing, the immediate post-Katrina bump he had looks to be all but gone.

Since Riley's first order of business will be to get past Roy Moore in the June primary, the more important numbers will be his standing among Republican voters. Thankfully, Survey USA provides the internals of their new poll.

Here's the breakdown of Riley's approval ratings by party:

Approve/ Disapprove
GOP: 66/31
DEM: 38/57
IND: 46/50


So while Riley's approval ratings among the electorate as a whole is a bit precarious, he does have a healthy 2 to 1 approval rating among Republicans.

Of course the 30% disapproval rating of members of Riley's own party does give an opponent like Moore a significant base from which to mount a campaign. Many incumbents can command near universal approval among members of their own party, even if they aren't widely popular across the board.

For example Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has the exact same approval ratings as Bob Riley (50/45) but Pawlenty has an impressive 81% approval rating among Republicans. I use this comparison to show that while Riley's 66% approval among Republicans seems solid at first blush, it also demonstrates that he has some work to do to emerge from the GOP primary.

Since SurveyUSA will release a new poll every month, it'll be very interesting to see the fluctuations of Riley's overall numbers but also to keep an eye on his standing within his own party.

Something We Can All Agree On

Though I don't like to stray from politics often, I thought this could bridge some of the gaps prevalent in our society.

Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, Auburn or Alabama, or just an apathetic loner, we should all be able to agree that ESPN's monopoly on sports has rendered mostly unwatchable excess. Yet since they are usually the only game in town, sports fans are consistently subjected to their pablum.

College football bloggers EDSBS (Everyday Should Be Saturday) have compiled a list of 52 examples of what is wrong with ESPN.

A few that struck a chord with me...
12. Tom Berenger's horrible old man prosthetics in The Junction Boys. Bear Bryant as burn victim, evidently.

28. The forced animosity between John Clayton and Sean Salisbury. Team Under Armor vs. Goliath has more verisimilitude.

30. Woody Paige. In our hometown, this guy cleaned your septic tank. On ESPN, he's an "expert."

40. ESPNU. Not even sure what this is, but it's unknown and strange-therefore by instinct we must hate it.
If you're and afflicted ESPN viewer I promise you'll find expression for your rage in this list. (A handfull of these contain some "strong language" , so be warned.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Date Set for Special Election

Governor Riley has outlined the dates for the upcoming special election in State House District 31 to replace the recently deceased Jack Venable.

The dates are as follows:

Qualifying Deadline : Dec 9, 2005
Primary: Jan 24, 2006
Runoff(if necessary)/General: Feb 28, 2006
General(if runoff was necessary): April 4, 2006

Two county commissioners have already come forward to express interest in the race. Elmore County Commissioner Don Whorton looks likely to run as a Republican while Coosa County Commissioner Unzell Lee is contemplating a run as a Democrat. Check out the AlabamaElections Directory to keep current on the candidates.

It is too early to predict the outcome of the race with much certainty, but judging from the geographical and political demographics of the district (as I discussed last week) Republicans should have reasons for optimism. Since the district has a Republican lean and Elmore County makes up around 3/4 of the electorate, an Elmore Republican versus a Coosa Dem would almost ensure a GOP pickup.

More Dem Infighting

Don Siegelman and Lucy Baxley recently continued their public squabbling. Using the lottery issue as a foil, both candidates zeroed in on their opponent's weakness.

Siegelman on Baxley: "She keeps changing her mind. She was morally opposed to it at the last election, and now she says what?"

As for Siegelman's assertion that she's indecisive, Baxley said, "Because they know me, the people will not let Don Siegelman cast me in some negative, unfair light. ... I am perfectly comfortable with me and him putting our careers and our ideas out on the table and seeing how we measure up. There has never been a hint of me using my job for personal gain or any accusation of impropriety about the way I handle the people's business."

So it's "no ideas" versus "the crook". Alabama Democrats should take note of this display and quickly go about finding an alternative to the two announced candidates.

I am growing increasingly certain that not only will neither Siegelman nor Baxley be the next governor, but I am beginning to doubt whether either will even be the Democratic nominee.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bama Border Wars

An early sign that illegal immigration could be a major issue in the governor's race came with Roy Moore's entry into the race. One of the five points of the Moore platform is staunch opposition to illegal immigration. However, since the beginning of the campaign other issues such as political reform (term limits, biennial sessions) and tax policy have dominated the political landscape.

However, there are signs that illegal immigration is about to emerge as a defining issue.

The recent court decision granting lifetime workers' compensation to a 17 year old illegal immigrant injured in a work related fall in Birmingham looks to have all the ingredients for a political backlash. Though the court's ruling may very well be consistent with the law, there is at least a surface level contradiction that an individual in the country illegally could be "rewarded" by the American judicial system.

If there is a conservative backlash against this decision, Governor Riley could be in a pickle. The business community, which Riley counts among his most ardent allies, relies on cheap labor provided by illegal immigrants. However, such a rationale is most likely an affront to many conservatives voters culturally offended by the rising immigrant population. Even JeffCO suburbs like Hoover have show recent predilections toward anti-illegal immigration fervor.

In short this decision gives Roy Moore more ammunition with which to pry suburban voters from the Riley camp.

However, Riley seems sensitive to the political realities of the issue as he recently publicized a state effort (in cooperation with the Federal Department of Homeland Security) to use state troopers to target illegal immigration. Gestures like these are smart politics, but Riley will have to do more than the occasional press conference to stay on top of the issue.

Anti-illegal immigration sentiment seems to be growing by the day, especially (but certainly not limited to) among conservatives. The passivity of Republican-dominated Washington to substantively address the issue only leads to many voters being more open to unorthodox candidates. Even if Bob Riley and Roy Moore take basically the same position on illegal immigration (against it), many voters are likely to see Moore as the more likely change agent than the establishment inclined incumbent governor.

I don't think the Democrats will be off the hook on the issue either. There is simply not much of a constituency in Alabama for a status quo approach on illegal immigration.

The governor's race has long been expected to revolve around taxes and religion and while those issues will no doubt influence the outcome, don't be surprised if illegal immigration is ultimately the driving issue of the 06 campaign.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey Day Turkey Award: Curt Lee

Dispatching with the staid "what are you thankful for" cliches, I've decided to use the Thanksgiving holiday to do something much more fun: gripe about Alabama politicians. With that in mind, I am giving out the 1st Annual Turkey Award to one deserving Alabama politician.

Now I am not sure exactly what the criteria is to receive this honor, but (like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography) I think I know it when I see it. That said, there are many potential candidates who would be worthy of this recognition.

The award could go to Terry Butts or Zeb Little who both badly wanted to run for LG or AG, only to be pushed aside by other candidates.

Or Tuscaloosa mayoral candidate Sammy Watson could be a worthy recipient as his ill-timed negative ads helped him go from front-runner to also-ran.

And what about State Rep Gerald Allen, who's bill to ban gay themed books went nowhere (even in the not especially gay friendly Alabama legislature) and drew a harsh national spotlight upon our state?

Jeff Enfinger's star certainly dimmed as unsavory personal allegations were made amidst a couple's divorce proceedings.

The recently appointed Mobile County Commissioner Juan Chastang is certainly a late contender as allegations of bribery and dishonesty have caused heartburn for Bob Riley and Mobile Republicans.

And let's not forget how State Sen Hank Erwin blamed Hurricane Katrina on "gambling, sin, and wickedness."

Former Tuscaloosa city councilman James "Coach" Cunningham has to be considered as a conviction of soliciting prostitution ended what had been a successful career in local politics.

Unfortunately, a list consisting of embarrassed (or embarrassing) Alabama pols could be quite extensive. And while each of the candidates mentioned above probably wishes they'd handled themselves a little differently over the past year, the choice of the Turkey of the Year award is head and shoulders above the rest.

State Senator Curt Lee had all the makings of a successful political career. He skillfully won a Democratic leaning senate seat in 1998 and held it easily in 2002 despite strong Democratic efforts. As the youngest Republican in the state senate, Lee seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. All that ended however, in the early hours of July 22.

Lee and a female acquaintance (not his wife) were spotted by security cameras "visiting" the legislative chambers and subsequently fled security officers. Not only did the incident result in a security lockdown and embarrassment, but also contributed to Lee's decision to retire from the legislature. And while speculation about Lee's retirement existed prior to his late night Capitol visit, surely this incident helped him make that decision.

Lee's poor judgment caused embarrassment for himself and contributed to his own political demise. But his mistake also makes it harder for Republicans to make gains in the State Senate as they have to defend Lee's Democratic leaning seat.

Curt Lee had the potential to be a player in state politics for decades to come. But instead it is likely that the only political recognition he'll receive is the 1st Annual AlabamaElections Turkey of the Year Award.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Closer Look at the Looming Special Election in House District 31

With the passing of Jack Venable, House District 31 will soon host a special election that could signal a sea-change within the State House. Though Venable easily held this district for the past 30-plus years, Republicans will surely target this district and attempt to use a win here as a springboard into the 2006 elections.

Governor Riley will most likely announce the dates for the special election in the next week or two. Recent special elections have taken about 5 months to see a successor take office and that is probably a reasonable estimation for this seat as well. Though we don't know the exact dates for the special election, it is obvious this district will see a competitive race to succeed Venable.

The district itself contains portions of both Coosa and Elmore county. Looking at the precinct level results from the 2002 elections it appeared to me that the actual voting percentage broke down to around 79% from Elmore and 21% from Coosa. This is good news for the GOP as Elmore county is a Republican stronghold and looks likely to outweigh the Democratic lean of Coosa.

More specifically I also crunched the 2002 Governor's race numbers from the district. My calculations had Riley carrying the district with 61% to Siegelman's 39%. I used the governor's race numbers because I thought it would be as good an indicator as any of the partisan feelings of the district since the race was essentially 50/50 statewide.

I should stipulate that it's possible I misread some of the Excel tables, so some of the figures could be a little off. And of course a state house race has a different dynamic than a governor's race, but I think these numbers give a sense of the general GOP lean of the district.

Democrats best hope would be to run Venable's widow or perhaps one of his children as someone with the Venable name could take advantage of the goodwill accrued throughout the decades. However, even Venable's margins decreased over the years as his district grew more Republican. 2002 saw Venable's lowest victory margin as he won 58% of the vote.

The candidates and campaigns will certainly determine who the next representative is, but Democrats have their work cut out for them to hold the seat. And Republicans have an opportunity to flip a Democratic seat before the 06 elections and show they mean business in the battle for control of the State House.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

AL Gov Candidates Now Online

With the recent emergence of Don Siegelman's campaign website, all four major announced gubernatorial candidates now have their campaign sites active. (Links to campaign sites can be found in the AlabamaElections Directory)

Of course campaigns aren't won or lost on the basis of their websites, but an able web operation can recruit volunteers and secure fundraising that might not have come through the conventional campaign structure.

Also, political websites are increasingly driving the debate during a campaign. An effective campaign website or partisan blog can instantly react to current events, defend their candidate against attacks, or even place their opponent on the defensive all without having to go through a media filter or an expensive advertising campaign.

The 2004 presidential race and the more recent Virginia governor's race demonstrated some of the ways the internet can be used on behalf of a candidate or cause. Hopefully candidates for Alabama office will attempt to yoke the potential of the internet and usher Alabama politics into the digital era.

It's Just a Matter of Time

So far Alabama politics has avoided the divisive debate between supporters of evolution and Intelligent Design that is raging in many communities.

But with the Riley/Moore primary looming, how long will it be until this issue finds its way into the race?

Monday, November 21, 2005

McCain/George Jr/CCC Story Goes National

The Beltway insider-mag National Journal has a piece in its daily blog eerily reminiscent of a piece from this blog last week.

Last Thursday, I discussed the potential for Wallace's past affiliations with the controversial Council of Conservative Citizens to cause some heartburn for McCain during his upcoming presidential campaign.

The National Journal's Hotline Blog repeated much of the same information as my piece, but did get a quote from a McCain flack about the issue.

John Weaver, a top McCain adviser, tells us: "George Wallace Jr., is an enlightened progressive leader who always speaks of tolerance and carries forth his father's views at the end of his life. He has strong support across the racial and political spectrum."
So McCain is not distancing himself publicly from Wallace Jr., but it'll be interesting to see if McCain uses his remarks at the fundraisers to address the issue.

Granted, much of this is likely much ado about nothing, but on the other hand who would have thought George W. Bush's speech at Bob Jones University would have played such a large role in the 2000 campaign?

Siegelman Trial Timetable

Dana Beyerle recently had some speculation about the timetable for the Siegelman trial. Lawyers on both sides discussed a possible February start with the trial lasting 4-6 weeks.

Obviously this would put the trial in the midst of the gubernatorial campaign. This timetable poses problems for Siegelman's candidacy. Instead of being on the campaign trail full time, Siegelman will be stuck in a Montgomery courtroom. But more importantly he will take a public relations hit as the media covers the trial in the middle of campaign season.

Hypothetically it is possible that a "not guilty" verdict cwould give Siegelman enough media attention and a fresh political start to run a 6-8 week sprint to the June primary.

However, if Siegelman is convicted before the April 7 filing deadline could we see a new Democratic candidate emerge to take on Lucy Baxley. Maybe someone along the lines of Folsom, Hammett, or Dow?

Lucy Baxley certainly stands to benefit from the Siegelman trial, but the uncertainty looks to continue until at least March or April. And that is good news for Republicans.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Longtime State Rep Dead at 66

Longtime member of the State House Jack Venable (D- Tallassee) lost his battle to leukemia on Friday night. First elected in 1974 Venable had risen to chair the House Rules Committee and was well respected by members of both parties.

Here are just a couple of examples of Venable's colleagues immense respect for him:

Mac Gipson (R-Prattville) : "I'm just heartsick, heartbroken and my heartfelt sympathies go to the family, his district and for the state," he said. "Jack Venable was a strict constitutionalist and my mentor. He helped me immensely because we shared Elmore County."

Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia): "Jack was one of the greatest statesmen to ever serve in the Alabama Legislature," "He was one of the finest people I ever met and a very close friend."

Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery): "He was one of the most brilliant people I've ever served with as it relates to parliamentary procedures, rules and the legislative process. He had integrity and his word was always good,"

Both the Decatur Daily and Montgomery Advertiser have more details on Venable and his legacy.

Though there will be political machinations in the days to come involving, I'd expect those to begin in earnest only after the Tuesday funeral.

A special election will be necessary and while Bob Riley will have the final decision on the timeline, generally it takes around 5 months to fill a vacancy.

This 31st District is comprised of Democratic leaning Coosa county and GOP dominant Elmore county. It will be a challenge for Democrats to hold this district, and some in the party are likely to encourage Venable's widow or one of his two sons to run.

I'll look more into the political realities of this sad situation in the days to come, but this is a time to remember a legislative legend.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Iron Bowl Politics

Since this is a weekend rightly dedicated to the Iron Bowl rivalry, I decided to go with the flow instead of swimming upstream. Of course, the Iron Bowl doesn't need any more division than is already presents, but I still am going to inject a little bit of politics into it.

Using a search engine for federal campaign contributions, I wanted to see if either Mike Shula or Tommy Tuberville was politically active. Neither coach has given to a federal (President or Congress) race, but each has a member of their immediate family who has.

Tommy Tuberville's wife Suzanne is listed as a contributor to the Bush/Cheney reelection fund ($2,000) as well as a May contribution to GOP US Rep Mike Rogers ($500).

On the Shula side, patriarch Don Shula spreads his contributions between both parties. While donating money directly to Republican campaign committees, Shula has also given to Florida Democrats like Bill Nelson, and Bob Graham. Other members of the Shula family have followed the same pattern.

But just in case you want to keep the politics to a minimum on this Iron Bowl weekend, here's my prediction.

Auburn 23 - Alabama 14

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bob Riley, Bribery, and a Bad Choice

There's yet another new chapter in the story that just won't go away. After a legal fight that went to the State Supreme Court allowing him to appoint a Mobile County Commissioner to fill the vacancy left by new Mayor Sam Jones, Bob Riley probably wishes there had been a special election after all.

Reveling in his legal victory, Riley appointed Juan Chastang to the Mobile County Commission. But it didn't take long for questions to arise about Chastang's qualifications. The most serious charges relate to allegations of attempting to bribe a fellow police officer. Chastang was subsequently suspended and left the police department soon thereafter.

And oh yeah, Chastang might not even live in District 1, which would render him unable to serve.

The governor's office says that Riley was not aware of these allegations prior to the appointment. But it sure didn't take the Mobile Register long to dig up the dirt.

Local Democrats haven't given up on forcing a special election and are now pressing the issue in federal court.

Though this has surely given the governor a headache, Chastang (who will serve until the 2008 elections and earn over $200,000) has already been sworn in and cannot be removed by the governor. Chastang has apologized to the governor for not disclosing the bribery related suspension, but shows no sign of resigning.

Finding a conservative Republican in a heavily Democratic district is probably a tall order, but you'd think the governor could find one without a track record of bribery.

And although this story is specific to Mobile, if more dirt surfaces or if Chastang has further problems as a commissioner this appointment could come back to haunt Bob Riley. One of Riley's strongest arguments for re-election is his relatively scandal-free administration after the tumultuous Siegelman years. However, appointing individuals with serious ethical baggage could quickly tarnish the reputation Riley has worked so hard to earn.

Guest Blog: Details Emerge of New Charges against Siegelman, Scrushy

(Guest blog by contributor CNH 320. See his first guest blog here.)

For the first time I saw in print the main thrust of the prosecutors’ case against former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Siegelman allegedly awarded seats on the state board that regulates the health care industry to Scrushy and his cronies in exchange for campaign contributions during the lottery special election. This is the kind of quid pro quo charge that people will understand. If the case goes to trial (and Siegelman’s lawyers say they want the trial to be over before next June’s primary), then I would expect lots of ugly details to emerge about the manner in which big-time contributors gain access and influence in Montgomery. Even if Siegelman is cleared of accepting campaign contributions as bribes, most Alabamians will just not understand why Scrushy and his pals would have been put on a state board where they would have such clear conflicts of interest.

If the case goes to trial, at best the Siegelman administration will be shown to have had some questionable ethical practices; at worst, he’ll be a convicted felon. I don’t see how Siegelman’s political future survives a trial. Scrushy was “vindicated” in his jury trial. I don’t know too many people who don’t think Scrushy was probably guilty of something or who don’t at least have a lower opinion of him after his trial. See also O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson. Which is why, regardless of Siegelman’s claims that he looks forward to a trial so he can clear his name, I assume his lawyers will be trying to get these charges thrown out like they did the first ones. A prediction: if there is a trial, Siegelman will not be the next Governor of Alabama

-- CNH 320

Parker Plays It Smart

Finally making the speculation official, Susan Parker recently announced her bid for the Public Service Commission.

Parker is finally showing some sound political judgment. She was elected State Auditor in 1998 and seemed likely to be a long-term presence in state politics until her insistence on running for Senate in a quixotic bid against Jeff Sessions in 2002. Predictably, Parker had problems raising money and was soundly defeated.

After flirting with the Lt. Gov. race, Parker has wisely set her sights on the PSC seat being vacated by George Wallace, Jr. Though Parker will have to face off with Perry Hooper, Jr. to earn a seat on the PSC, this is a much more plausible race with which to revive her political career.

Parker has some political talent and has a statewide victory on her resume' in an era in which that is hard to come by for a Democrat. And while she is not a lock to win the PSC race, this is a wise first step towards a political resurgence and come 2006 she might be one of the few Democrats left in statewide office.

And in a related note a Parker win combined with Jan Cook's likely re-election, could give Democrats their first majority on the Public Service Commission since 1998.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

McCain Stumps for Wallace, Jr

John McCain is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for George Wallace Jr.'s campaign for Lt. Governor later in the month. Wallace has also had GOP bigwigs like Haley Barbour and Fred Thompson sign up to help his campaign.

Obviously this is a coup for Wallace as McCain brings credibility and fundraising appeal to the campaign. However, I'm a little surprised to see McCain so publicly back Wallace. Certainly George Wallace, Jr. has a record of populism that many Republicans can embrace, but he also has some affiliations that might make a Republican with national aspirations nervous.

Wallace's meeting with the Council of Conservative Citizens, an alleged "hate group, raised some eyebrows throughout Alabama. Wallace's local connections and extensive record probably gives him enough latitude to avoid too much damage from the event, but for someone like John McCain it might not be that easy.

In 2000, McCain took George W. Bush to task for speaking at Bob Jones University and not criticizing their segregationist and anti-Catholic stances. For McCain to publicly back and raise money for Wallace, does seem to be inconsistent.

Events like these further cement Wallace's status as the frontrunner in the LG race, but don't be surprised if the national media (or McCain opponents) pick up on the fundraiser should McCain make another bid for the White House.

Chewing on Cobb's Kickoff

As I predicted last week, Sue Bell Cobb kicked off her campaign for Chief Justice on Tuesday. The coverage of her announcement signaled what are likely to be two themes prevalent during her campaign.

Cobb said she expects to be the only candidate in the race with extensive experience as a judge, saying that as a trial court judge she tried cases in 40 of Alabama's 67 counties. "My potential opponents have not tried a single case in a single county," Cobb said.

Certainly on trial experience alone, Cobb is much more tested than either of her opponents. Cobb also foreshadowed another theme we're likely to hear throughout her campaign.

She said one incident that helped define her career came in 1989 when her home was firebombed, apparently the result of a child abuse case in her court. "I
know what it is to be the victim of crime and I understand the fears and frustrations faced by those who have seen the system fail," she said.

A judicial campaign centered around victim's rights should provide Cobb a solid platform.

However, the most heated rhetoric came from Tom Parker when asked about his potential GOP primary foe Drayton Nabers.

Parker said that without another candidate, the Supreme Court race would be between "the architect and the cheerleader for the largest tax increase in Alabama history." As finance director for Riley, Nabers helped develop the governor's $1.2 billion tax package that was rejected by voters in 2003. Cobb campaigned for the tax plan.

Parker has long attacked Nabers for his role in Amendment One, but it is interesting to see him take the same tack against Cobb. Assuming Parker does enter the race, he seems to ensure the race will revolve around such hot button issues as Amendment One and potentially the 10 Commandments removal.

Though it will not generate as much coverage as the Governor's race, I expect the Chief Justice race to be as competitive and nasty as any on the ballot.

Everybody Hates Cheney

SurveyUSA has done another one of its 50 state polls, this time testing Vice President Dick Cheney's standing across the country. Though Alabama is unsurprisingly one of Cheney's best states, his numbers here still leave a lot to be desired.

Cheney's Alabama approval ratings are as follows:

42% Approval
54% Disapproval

As bad as these numbers are, they are well above the national average of 36/60. In fact, Alabama is tied (with Oklahoma) as the 7th most approving of the Vice President.

These numbers don't mean much, especially in Alabama, but it is further proof that state Republicans might not have the positive partisan wind at their back that they've grown used to over the last decade.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Shelby, Sessions Split on Iraq

The conventional wisdom that Richard Shelby is significantly more moderate than Jeff Sessions is often exaggerated. However, yesterday saw one of the increasingly rare times when the two part company on a high profile issue.

The vote was on a Republican sponsored non binding resolution that called for the White House to provide more information on it's long-term plan for Iraq. This measure was a counter to a more aggressive Democratic measure that called for a timetable for troop withdrawal. The GOP proposal was nearly identical to the Democratic resolution with the exception of the troop withdrawal portion.

Though, Sessions and Shelby both voted against the Democratic resolution (only one GOPer voted for it), the two were split on the Republican backed measure.

Shelby joined the majority of both parties in supporting the less strenuous proposal, while Sessions was one of 13 Republicans to oppose the measure. The opposition to this resolution saw an unlikely pairing of conservative Republican hawks (who saw any resolution as a sign of weakness) and liberal Democrats (who wanted the tougher Democratic measure).

In my mind this is the highest profile split between Alabama's senators since the 1999 impeachment trial vote (Sessions voted to convict on both counts while Shelby only voted to convict on the perjury charge).

You can draw your own conclusion as to which senator cast the correct vote, but it is always interesting when Alabama's Senate delegation decides to cancel each other out.

Wanted: Dem to Challenge Rogers (The Long List)

Yesterday I discussed why Mike Rogers shouldn't be considered safe. Indeed the biggest obstacle Democrats have in opposing him is not the district or the political environment, but the simple fact that they don't have a candidate.

So, in attempt to help the Democrats and to give political bloggers a competitive federal race on which to opine, I've taken the liberty of developing a list of Democrats who could take on Mike Rogers.

The obvious place to look is the state legislature, so here are the Dems who represent areas in the state Senate or State House that fall within the 3rd Congressional District.

The Long List

State Senate
Larry Means
Gerald Dial (ran in the 1996 3rd CD primary)
Myron Penn
Ted Little (was the Democratic nominee in the 3rd CD in 1996)
Jim Preuitt
Quinton Ross


State House
Richard Lindsey
Barbara Boyd
Steve Hurst
Richard Laird
Jack Venable
Betty Carol Graham
Pebblin Warren
Lesley Vance
George Bandy
Thad McClammy
Alvin Holmes


Of course many on this list are not viable candidates nor would they have any interest in a congressional race. But there are also at least a couple of legislators who could provide Rogers with some very stiff competition should they be enticed into the race.

Looking past the state legislature, there are still a few other choices.

The Others
Bill Fuller
- 2004 nominee and ex state legislator
Joe Turnham - 2002 nominee and current ADP party chair
Bobby Bright - Montgomery Mayor

Fuller obviously had a disastrous run in 2004, but without having to run against the John Kerry drag and with experience earned in his previous bid, he should be able to improve his performance.

Turnham's recent election as ADP chair probably precludes a rematch. But if he were to run he'd have a clear primary field and a more hospitable environment. His 2002 race was in the shadow of 9/11 and the Iraq War, but a 2006 race would probably be on a more Democrat-friendly terrain.

Bright has been mentioned to have ambitions beyond city hall. He could raise plenty of money with his Montgomery contacts, but a "big city" mayor might not play well in the more rural parts of the district. Plus, Montgomery county is split between the 3rd and the 2nd districts so all of Bright's base isn't intact. But given his stature and connections, Bright could give Rogers a serious run.

Wildcards
There are of course other ambitious mayors, city councilors, county commissioners, etc in the 3rd who could carry the Democratic banner. There might even be a private citizen (businessman, attorney) who could dump some of his own money into the race and give Rogers a headache.

I am not sure if any credible Democrat will oppose Mike Rogers, but I think this list shows there are at least a few strong Democrats left in the hills of the 3rd district.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mike Rogers: Not Safe Yet

Mike Rogers was re-elected to Congress on November 2, 2004. Much has happened in the year since then. And not much of it has been good for Republicans in Washington.

Yet even though, 2006 might be Alabama Democrats last, best chance to take out Rogers before he is totally ensconced in the 3rd District, no Democrats have as much as sniffed at the race.

Let me run down the arguments why Democrats shouldn't let Rogers get a free pass:

The District:
The 3rd District was drawn by the Democratic legislature to favor a Democrat. Its base of 32% black population gives it the most minority presence aside from the majority-minority 7th district. The 3rd also gave John Kerry his second highest % (42%) of any in the state in 2004. The 3rd even gave Al Gore 47% in 2000 before it was tweaked to become even more Democratic in the post census remap. Those facts and figures don't mean much by themselves, but they do show that the 3rd has a strong Democratic base and the right Democrat can compete and possibly win.

The Environment:
Rogers is only in his second term. Historically the longer a congressman serves the more secure he becomes. There are of course many exceptions, but generally if a congressman can be elected and then re-elected a couple of times, he'll have a pretty safe seat. Rogers beat Joe Turnham by a scant 2% in 2002, but clobbered Bill Fuller by over 20% in 2004.

The 2004 results have understandably dispirited Alabama Democrats, but there is some reason for optimism as well. In 2006 the Democratic candidate won't have to fight the Bush tidal wave at the top of the ticket. In fact, many pundits expect 2006 to be a good environment for Democrats. The various problems (ethical and otherwise) of the Bush White House and Congressional Republicans could lead to an anti-incumbent wave that could endanger many GOPers throughout the country. 2006 could be the best year for Democrats on the national level since the 1994 Republican takeover.

Of course whether or not a Democratic surge would extend to Alabama or whether Rogers would be affected is debatable, but 2006 may well be the best chance Democrats have to oust Rogers until at least the 2012 remap.

The Candidates:
Mike Rogers has proved to be a very able politician. Not only was he able to succeed in a district drawn by Democrats for Democrats, but his 2004 win has left Democrats (both local and national) grasping for answers. Rogers has used conservative Republican politics along with occasional doses of populism to craft an appealing image. His close ties and loyalty to national Republican leaders have been rewarded with good committee slots (Agriculture, Homeland Security) and a steady stream of campaign cash.

However, if the national dissatisfaction with the Republican party reaches into Alabama, Rogers will be a prime candidate to feel the heat. For their part, Democrats not only do not have an announced candidate, but also have no candidate (I'm aware of) who has even showed a minimal amount of public interest.

Tomorrow, I'll tackle this problem for the Democrats and provide them with a list of the candidates they should be trying to talk into the race against Rogers.

Stan Pate Rips Riley

When Bob Riley announced his re-election Stan Pate, a Tuscaloosa developer and anti-tax activist, put $10,000 of his own money into an ad bashing Riley for his Amendment One advocacy.

The ad only ran in the Birmingham media market. But if you don't live in that area or if you just missed it when it ran the first time, I ran across a downloadable copy of the ad at Russ and Dee's (B'ham area right-wing radio hosts) site.

The ad has footage of Bob Riley from the 2002 governor's debate and splices together Riley's remarks to highlight the inconsistency of his anti-tax rhetoric with his Amendment One support . The ad itself is a little amateurish, but it's fundamental premise is effective.

Though Pate's ad only had a short run, I'd expect to see Roy Moore and other Riley critics employ similar themes in the coming months.

Monday, November 14, 2005

More GOP Legislators Back Riley

On Sunday, The Decatur Daily demonstrated why it just might have the best political coverage of any paper in the state. The Daily contacted each Republican member of the State House delegation and polled them on their preference in the gubernatorial primary.

Out of the 27 (out of 41) members who responded 7 members said they were undecided or didn't want to comment.

Bob Riley led Roy Moore 18-2 among the members who gave a preference. However, not all of the members were not willing to go "on the record". Indeed, neither of the Moore supporters wanted to be publicly outed, and around half of the Riley backers stayed anonymous.

Those legislators unabashedly in favor of Riley are:

Mike Ball - Huntsville - HD 10
DuWayne Bridges - Valley - HD 38
Mac Gipson - Prattville - HD 88
Lynn Greer - Rogersville - HD 02
Mickey Hammon - Decatur - HD 04
Mike Hubbard - Auburn - HD 79
Mary Sue McClurkin - Pelham - HD 43
Cam Ward - Alabaster - HD 49
Jack Williams - Birmingham - 47

The most interesting comments, however, were from two GOP legislators who aren'tt thrilled with either of the two leading candidates.

"The choices are ethics questions, no experience or ideas, an agenda that seems to go back to a previous era and Amendment One," [Ronald]Johnson [from Sylacauga] said.

Rep. Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta, is wishing for a "neither of the above" button to push. "I was hoping someone else would run. I think there are a lot of fences to be mended."
I am a little surprised that a Republican legislator would be candid enough to publicly criticize both candidates. Perhaps a Tim James or Harri Anne Smith candidacy isn't as hopeless as previously thought.

Overall, this poll doesn't tell us much we didn't already know. The GOP establishment overwhelmingly prefers Riley. But it is interesting that the fear of Moore and his army of activists is enough to keep well over half of the House GOP caucus from publicly supporting the incumbent Republican governor.

Additionally, this poll helps fill out the AlabamaElections "Endorsement Watch", which monitors public supporters of each GOP candidate.

Shelby off the Hook

The Senate Ethics Committee recently closed its investigation looking into allegations that Richard Shelby leaked classified information relating to September 11. Shelby has claimed vindication, but the committee didn't publicly exonerate him; instead they simply closed the investigation without punishing Shelby.

The speculation was that Shelby, then Intelligence Committee Chair, had leaked information to cast the CIA (often criticized by Shelby) in a negative light.

The alleged leak(reported by CNN) contained information that the CIA had a document on Sept 10, 2001 indicating that attacks were to occur the next day. Shelby has never directly denied being the source for the report, but has stuck to never "knowingly" disclosing classified information.

The details of this are murky and don't look likely to be cleared up anytime soon. Though Shelby cruised through re-election with this over his head, I'm sure he is breathing a little easier now that this matter is closed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Weekend Quick Takes

Hank Sanders To Face Ethics Board
One of the most powerful members of the state legislature will face an ethics hearing next month. Hank Sanders has been accused of steering state money to non-profit organizations run by members of his family. Sanders denies any of the state money ended up in his family's pocket.

Though, it is unlikely that these charges will results in any legal problems for Sanders, the specter of corruption and cronyism is not what legislative Democrats want heading into the 2006 elections.

Dem Running to Replace Lee
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned State Senate District 05 as a race to watch. Republican Curt Lee is retiring and leaving behind a district Democrats think they can win. Charles Bishop announced his campaign for the open seat, making his first bid for office as a Republican. Now the Democrats finally have a candidate of their own.

Walker County businessman Roger Whited entered the race last weekend. Whited is the manager of a convenience store chain and is active in civic affairs. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of other ambitious Democrats joining Whited in the primary, but Democrats can take heart that they have a viable candidate in the race. Ultimately, the race might turn in to a a referendum on local political fixture Bishop and whether District 05 wants to elect a freshman state senator who's in the twilight of his career.

Independent Challenges Bachus
Child care worker Warren Grayson has announced his independent bid against Spencer Bachus in the 6th Congressional district. Bachus is, of course, a lock for re-election, but Grayson has piqued my interest. Though he's running as an Independent, Grayson actually associates himself with the "Moderate Party". I had never heard of this group, so I checked out their website. And sure enough they're platform is ,well, moderate.

It is a bit of a change to see a third party advocating small, measured change. I wouldn't hold my breath for the Moderate Party to sweep into power in Alabama, or anywhere else, but they are a breath of fresh air compared to their third party more radical third-party brethren like the Libertarians and Greens.

Friday, November 11, 2005

(Guest Blog)The Next President of the United States: Coming to a town-hall near you?

(This is the first guest blog by new contributor CNH 320.)

While most political junkies in Alabama are engrossed in handicapping the competitive and likely entertaining 2006 statewide races, at least a few are looking ahead and thinking a bit bigger. Last week the possibility of moving up Alabama’s presidential primaries to increase the state’s influence on the selection of the parties’ nominees was again brought to the fore.

Remember that during this year’s legislative session, a bill was brought up to move the state’s presidential primaries to the Saturday after New Hampshire’s all-important First in the Nation Primary.

That’s right, the state that stands a decent chance of electing the Ten Commandments Governor is now in the hunt to help determine the two major party candidates for president. While the conventional wisdom says that moving Alabama to the front of the line would help more conservative candidates in both parties, that may not necessarily be the case.

For the Republicans, if Secretary of State, and Alabama Native, Condoleezza Rice were in the mix, based on the hugely positive coverage her recent trip to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham generated, I’d expect this “mildly pro-choice” African-American woman to, surprisingly, be the frontrunner, perhaps even discouraging other Republicans from participating. If Rice’s out, expect Alabama’s voters to be courted heavily by conservatives like Sen. George Allen of Virginia as they try to score a victory over the moderate/liberal candidates in their party like John McCain and Rudy Guliani. As a matter of fact, my sense is Republican establishment types are looking to move Alabama up as a bulwark against a moderate Republican taking the nomination, much as South Carolina ended McCain’s challenge to George W. Bush in 2000.

For the Democrats, they are looking to move up a state that has a large proportion of minorities (unlike the very white states of Iowa and New Hampshire). The possibility of an early primary in a state where 40% of the Democratic primary electorate is African-American must be music to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s ears. Given the lackluster crop of Dem. candidates that’ll be challenging Hillary Clinton, I’d give Sharpton a real shot at coming in a strong second in an Alabama primary. The white Democrats in Alabama are considerably more conservative than the average national Democrat, so an early primary here would give someone like Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas or John Edwards of South Carolina, if they run to her right, a real shot at gaining momentum to become that one “anti-Hillary” candidate left standing.

While it is much too early to make meaningful predictions about 2008, it is not too early to see that the primary calendar, and Alabama’s place in it, may be very important in determining who the party’s standard bearers will be.

-- CNH 320

The Obligatory Siegelman Post

I've had a couple of readers email me and ask why I didn't post on the recent Mobile Register poll gauging Don Siegelman's standing in the light of his recent indictments.

The poll had both good news and bad news for Siegelman. A plurality of voters (44%)thought that he should abandon his bid for a second term in the governor's office, but only 20% expect Siegelman to actually be convicted in his upcoming racketeering trial.

The reason I didn't post on the poll initially is because: A) I am a little tired of all the Siegelman melodrama and B) The outcome of the trial will have much more to do with Siegelman's political future and the governor's race than a poll 8 months before the primary.

So, though I am always up for picking apart a poll, I just didn't see much to chew on in this one.

Cobb Campaign Kickoff

I've been told that Sue Bell Cobb will officially announce her entrance into the race for Supreme Court Chief Justice on Tuesday. Of course it's been assumed that Cobb will be the Democratic standard-bearer in this race for months, but her efforts have largely been behind the scenes.

I'm told that Cobb's announcement will be at 9 am on Tuesday (Nov. 15) in the State Supreme Court building.

The next shoe to drop in the Chief's race will be Tom Parker's decision. He's been expected to challenge appointed incumbent Drayton Nabers for the GOP nod, but has not publicly announced his plans.

The Chief's race is shaping up to be one of the more interesting races of 2006 with the three presumptive candidates (Nabers, Parker, Cobb) each having a realistic chance at success.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hubbard, Hoops, and a House Race

In 2002 State Rep. Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) didn't have major party opposition and was able to coast to re-election. Since then he risen to through the GOP ranks to become the Republican leader in the House. Hubbard has also become one of Bob Riley's biggest and most loyal boosters.

In his role as a Republican leader, Hubbard has helped spearhead the GOP effort to wrest control of the AL legislature from the Democrats. However, his own personal political situation has become a little more complicated with the emergence of his first real challenger since his initial election in 1998.

Democrat Carolyn Ellis has announced her plans to run for Hubbard's District 79 seat. Ellis is a former teacher and refers to herself as a "civic leader", but is probably best know as the wife of ex-Auburn University basketball coach Cliff Ellis.

District 79 was held for decades by Democrat Pete Turnham and Hubbard won the seat with 56% of the vote upon his retirement in 1998. Though, Hubbard avoided Democratic opposition in 2002, the district still maintains a Democratic base and some level of competitiveness. Ellis' contacts and connections should allow her to raise more money and get more press than a typical first time candidate. Certainly, defeating Hubbard will be an uphill battle, but Ellis should be able to make this a competitive race.

Ellis' announcement press release foreshadowed what will likely be one of her primary justifications for ousting the incumbent.

"Today we have a representative who seems to spend more time in partisan warfare and building a political machine than serving the needs of District 79," she said.
Hubbard's elevation from backbencher to his party's leader no doubt gives him a greater influence and prominence. However, it also comes at a price as his efforts to lead a GOP takeover have given him a Democratic bullseye on his back. The more time and money Democrats can make Hubbard focusing on his own race, the less inclination he'll have to
travel the state stumping and fundraising for Republican incumbents and challengers.

Even if Ellis is unsuccessful in her quest to become the next representative for District 79, if Mike Hubbard is tethered to his own district fighting for his own political future instead of leading the larger GOP effort to win the State House, it will be a tactical victory for Alabama Democrats.

Game Off

In yet another twist in an already complex tale, the Alabama Supreme Court has "temporarily stayed" a special election to fill the vacancy on the Mobile County Commission left by newly elected Mobile Mayor Sam Jones.

This latest development came only after the Supremes had refused to delay the election prior to oral arguments before the Court. So amidst these contradictory signals several candidates have raised money, spent money, and actively campaigned for an election that now might not ever be held.

The primary had been set for November 22, but the race is now in limbo while the Supreme Court considers the issue.

I am not a legal scholar, but this whole matter seems to have been handled very poorly. Hopefully, it will be resolved soon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Democrats' Delight

Democrats have something to smile about this morning. In yesterday's off-year elections, Democrats won several important races and have emerged energized.

The biggest race of the night was the Virginia Governor's race which saw Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine (D) defeat ex-Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) by a healthy margin. Retiring Governor Mark Warner (D) is widely popular and his success in helping elect his Democratic ally as his successor will certainly further raise his profile as he eyes the 2008 Democratic presidential race.

The Virginia race can also serve as a blueprint for Alabama Democrats. Kaine was able to fight off GOP wedge issues (death penalty, gay rights, illegal immigration) and run on a less polarizing platform of education, health care, and fiscal management. While, VA Democrats have several advantages that AL Democrats do not, following the Warner/Kaine playbook would be wise for Democrats across the South.

Democrats also won the other big contest of the night as Jon Corzine (D) was elected governor in New Jersey. Corzine was always the favorite, however the race took several turns through an increasingly nasty and personal campaign. But ultimately Corzine won easily.

Republicans can take solace in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's landslide re-election. Ohio voters also rejected liberal-sponsored referendums aimed at upsetting the GOP dominated status quo. But overall tonight was a good night to be a Democrat.

Democrats will try to spin tonight's results as a personal rebuke of George W. Bush and the GOP as a whole. Dems will also try to use their victories as a springboard from which to gather momentum for the 2006 elections. While it is undeniable that Bush is at the low point of his presidency and that the Republicans have had a rough 2005, Democrats would be wise to remember that high expectations in both 2002 and 2004 turned into bitter disappointments.

Riley Backs Aruba Boycott

Yesterday, Bob Riley used the bully pulpit of the governor's office to call for a nationwide boycott of Aruba. Riley says that the Aruban government is not properly investigating the disappearance of Mountain Brook teen Natalee Holloway. The State House passed a resolution calling for a boycott of the island during the recent special session and legislators' from both chambers plan to take up the issue during the next regular session.

Alabamians have seen one family's tragedy turn into a national tabloid sensation. Now Governor Riley and many in the legislator are ratcheting up the rhetoric surrounding the controversial case.

I can certainly understand why many Alabamians are outraged at what seems to be (at best) an incompetent investigation into the matter, but I am still surprised to see public officials taking such a vocal position. The "Boycott Aruba" movement has largely been spear-headed by the perpetually outraged radio hosts "Russ and Dee".

It is a little disconcerting to see the governor following the lead of local loudmouths, even if he's doing the right thing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day Elsewhere

Today is Election Day. But as in most states, there will be no voting in Alabama. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't some interesting races on the ballot around the country.

Virginia and New Jersey will elect new governors while New York City, Detroit, San Diego and other large cities will have mayoral elections. Additionally, there are referendums and initiatives on the ballot in California and Ohio which could have far reaching consequences depending on their result.

Political Wire has a good primer on some of the more important contests of the day.

From an Alabama perspective the race to watch is probably the Virginia's governor's race. Popular Democratic Governor Mark Warner can't run again and the race to succeed is considered a toss-up. However, if Democratic candidate Tim Kaine emerges victorious it will give Democrats (especially in the South) hope that they can rebound against the recent GOP tidal wave throughout the region. While the VA race is not especially analogous to the upcoming Alabama governor's race, it would give state Democrats some hope as they attempt to reverse recent Republican gains.

Of course if GOPer Jerry Kilgore can snatch the Virginia governorship away from Democrats, it could signal that Southern Republicans are still dominant even though the national party is currently beleaguered.

The National Journal's Hotline on Call blog looks to be a good source for results once the polls close.

Begala Bummer

The Alabama Democratic Party recently revealed the speaker for their Nov. 15 Jefferson/Jackson banquet. Democratic Strategist/Clinton aide/Ubiquitous Media Presence Paul Begala will be the guest speaker at the event.

Begala is a legitimate pundit and Beltway insider, but I would have thought the ADP could have found someone with a little more star power. The banquet invitation even touts the event's purpose as "Kicking off the 2006 election season". And Paul Begala is the ADP's choice to fire up the rank-and-file heading into an election year?

I am not criticizing Begala, in fact it looks as if he is stepping in at the last minute as a favor to the ADP. But why not a Southern Governor like Mark Warner (VA), Phil Bredesen (TN), or Mike Easley (NC). John Edwards doesn't have much to do these days besides speaking at Democratic events. Or maybe Artur Davis could call in a favor from one of his House colleagues. With the possibility of Alabama primary playing a crucial role in the 2008 Democratic nomination, I'd have thought a high profile Democrat would have been eager to speak.

The 2006 elections could determine whether Democrats are a viable force in state politics or are constantly playing catch-up to the GOP. With little excitement being generated by leading Alabama Democrats, they could use an injection of enthusiasm from the outside.

And with all due respect to Paul Begala, I am not sure how much excitement he is going to generate.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ambiguous General

Lucy Baxley recently appealed to Attorney General Troy King to solve a sticky dispute over property taxes. Bob Riley claims that he doesn't have the authority to overturn the 2003 order to appraise property taxes every year as opposed to the previous method of an appraisal once every four yeras. Roy Moore, joined by Don Siegelman, dispute that notion and have called on Riley to return to the former practice.

Employing her usual modus operandi of letting others make diffucult decisions, Baxley called on King to settle the issue once and for all.

Only King doesn't want to.

Through an aide, King declined to settle the matter since the yearly appraisals have already begun. The issue must now be decided by the courts, according to the AG's office.

Upon hearing King's non-answer, Baxley stated the obvious:
"If the attorney general is charged with enforcing the laws of Alabama, it's fair to ask him what the law says,"
Now I am no attorney and perhaps King's decision to not render a decision is legally defensible. But what most people (including myself) will think upon hearing these series of events is that King is avoiding doing his job for purely political reasons.

I can understand King's predicament. He has had some bumps in the road during his brief tenure as AG and will certainly have to fight hard to hold onto his office against Democrat John Tyson, Jr in November. So why should King risk weighing in on the appraisal issue and alienating the governor he appointed or the activists he'll need to win in November? Well because that is his job.

And while in the short-term rendering a decision might cause King some political pain, voters will ultimately reward a politician who is willing to take political risks in order to do what is right.

King has shown political skill in securing the AG appointment and in warding off primary challengers thus far. But he has also shown a penchant for self-inflicted damage with the ankle bracelet incident, the Lowder flap, and now this latest black eye.

If King isn't careful voters will decide to give the Attorney General's job to someone who will actually do it.

JeffCo GOP Straw Poll Results

The Jefferson County GOP held a fundraiser Saturday night that included a straw poll for various 2006 primaries.

A reader emailed me the results from the straw poll.

Governor:
Riley: 153
Moore: 70

Lt. Gov :
Wallace: 107
Strange: 60
Brooks: 35

Also, State Reps. Jim Carns and Bobby Humphryes defeated incumbent Jefferson County Commissioners Gary White and Mary Buckelew, respectively by approximately 100 votes each. These two county commission races seemed likely to pit Republicans against each other, but if this vote is any sign of things to come then the incumbents might not have much support left.

Among the attendees were Roy Moore, Patsy Riley, Mo Brooks, Glen Murdock and Perry Hooper, Jr. Also, I am told the Riley campaign purchased 50 tickets and presumably dispersed them among supporters.

There don't seem to be any big surprises here and even if there were it would be too reactionary to draw any conclusions from such a small sample. But though the JeffCo straw poll isn't significant enough to warrant much analysis, it is (I believe) the first public vote of the campaign and thus a symbolic start to what promises to be an intriguing political season.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Poll: Riley's Katrina Bounce Gone

Survey USA released their monthly gauge of each governor's approval ratings. Bob Riley's ratings haven't fared well over the past month.

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Bob Riley is doing as Governor?

Approve : 49%
Disapprove : 48%

Other than last month's 58/37 approval, Riley has been fluttering right around even approval/disapproval ratings over the last several months and this latest poll shows his Katrina bounce has almost completely dissipated.

This poll also confirms other recent polls (here and here) that show Bob Riley's post-Katrina surge subsiding. The silver lining for the governor is that it does seem he has significantly recovered from his post-Amendment One lows and has at least a fighting shot at a second term. Indeed, his opponents are not without flaws as well.

But with Roy Moore on the warpath and two Democrats looking to oust him, Bob Riley needs to fully engage in the campaign and try to arrest the trend of his falling poll numbers.

Draft Tim James?

I've been told that there is a movement among some in the GOP to encourage Tim James to enter the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary.

James' name was mentioned much earlier in the cycle, but as Riley's approval's rose and a Moore bid became more likely, James seemed to lose much of the impetus for a campaign. Though James, a developer and son of Fob James, ran relatively poorly in his first political effort in 2002 (9% in the GOP gov primary), the logic seems to be that he could bridge the gap between Bob Riley and Roy Moore.

This is the same rationale a Harri Anne Smith campaign would use should she ever decide to divulge her plans. It is a sound argument on its face, but it would take an extremely fortunate series of events for either Smith or Tim James to be propelled to the nomination. And while it is possible (if unlikely) for a candidate not named Riley or Moore to emerge with the GOP nomination, their success hinges on being the only alternative. More specifically, a field with two alternatives to Bob Riley and Roy Moore will actually contain no viable alternatives at all. There is simply not enough oxygen in the Republican primary for four viable candidates.

I consider a Smith campaign much more likely than a James bid at this point, but if they both should run a Riley/Moore runoff is almost assured. And while I, as a political blogger, would enjoy it, a nasty, ideological runoff is a prospect that should keep Republicans awake at night.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bipartisanship Run Amok!

Roy Moore and Don Siegelman recently cast aside party labels and divisiveness and united against Gov. Riley in opposing yearly property tax appraisals.

But hasn't this spirit of bipartisanship gone a little too far when they are sharing the same hair?

Sessions Finds His Voice

After remaining on the sidelines during the Harriet Miers flap, Jeff Sessions has emerged as one of the leading proponents of new Supreme Court nominee, Sam Alito. Sessions has both effusively praised Alito and warned Democrats against filibustering the nomination. Sessions has even hit the cable news circuit stumping for Alito, appearing on the Fox News morning show .

Sessions has long been a Republican leader on judicial issues, attacking those he considers "activist judges" and praising "strict constructionists". It is no surprise that a Justice Alito is just the kind of lure to galvanize Sessions into action. But Sessions lack of public leadership in the Miers nomination is even more glaring given his vocal involvement in the case of Alito.

In other Sessions-related news, the liberal blog, Senate Majority Project, put Alabama's junior senator in their cross-hairs this week. The blog calls attention to what they see as a hypocritical disconnect between Sessions' rhetoric in the wake of the death of Rosa Parks and Sessions' past "racially charged statements".

This attack on Sessions is a little gratuitous, but readers should draw their own conclusions on the actual merits.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Misunderestimating Moore?

George W. Bush once said that part of his political success was due to his opponents "misunderstestimating" him. It is still early, but I think the same phenomenon might apply to Roy Moore.

I've been meaning to revisit the nascent GOP primary between Roy Moore and Bob Riley for a couple of weeks now. I've been extremely impressed by Moore's campaign thus far. While Riley has rightly been focusing on his gubernatorial dutues, Roy Moore has been driving the agenda that will determine who the GOP nominee will be.

Roy Moore has shrewdly refrained from focusing solely on the 10 Commandments case and instead has advocated several populist issues. While certainly not universally popular, Moore's campaign platform is much more developed and detailed than anything put forward by either Riley or the two leading Democrats.

For example, Moore's call for legislative sessions every other year (instead of the current system of annual sessions) forced his opponents to take a position on the otherwise off-the-radar issue. Similarly, Moore's call for term limits certainly has bipartisan appeal to those disgruntled with the "politics as usual" approach. Moore is trying (fairly effectively thus far) to transition from being solely identified with his religious stands to a conservative leaning populist platform that casts himself as the disaffected everyman trying to return state government to the average Alabamian.

But the master stroke of Moore's campaign thus far is his framing of the tax appraisal issue. Riley's contention that the yearly appraisal is required by state law leaving nothing the governor's office can do to remedy it may be legally correct. But focusing solely on the political implications of the appraisal issue, Roy Moore seems to have Bob Riley right where he wants him.

The beauty of Moore's tactic is that it both forces Riley into the untenable "pro-tax" position, and inevitably reminds Republicans about the Amendment One debacle. Indeed, Riley's resurgence is largely due to recent events overshadowing his 2003 tax package defeat. But Moore has not only found a way to resurrect the issue of Riley's past proposed tax increases, but also has cast Riley as a current and consistent "pro-tax" governor.

The success of Moore's tactics are proven by the unlikely support Don Siegelman, who joins Moore in attacking both Riley's position as well as the governor's rationale behind it ("That is just hogwash,").

Riley obviously does not have the luxury of a full-time focus on the campaign unlike his primary opponent. But Moore's campaign has shown surprising shrewdness and skill and has successfully bested the governor in the campaign's first battle. Fortunately for Riley, the first votes are still 8 months away, but the governor can not let Moore continue to dictate the terms of the debate if he expects to be re-elected.

Chairman Bachus?

With the retirement of Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH), Alabama's Spencer Bachus (R-Birmingham) is poised to move into one of the the most powerful positions in the U.S. House. Oxley is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which has wide jurisdiction over insurance, securities, banking, and housing industries as well as oversight over a wide range of financial agencies.

Bachus, who currently chairs a Financial Services subcommittee, is not assured of assuming the chair of the full committee, but he is one of the leading contenders for the powerful post. His main competitor seems to be Richard Baker (R-LA) with David Dreier (R-CA) and Deborah Pryce (R-OH) as other potential candidates.

The race for chair will take place behind the scenes, but we'll probably be able to see Bachus and the other candidates spreading campaign money around to their GOP colleagues in attempt to win favors and show that they're a team player. The new chairman will ultimately be chosen by the House GOP steering committee, which usually reflects the wishes of the Speaker and the upper echelons of the Republican establishment.

The 1990s saw the Alabama House delegation lose a lot of clout with the retirements of Bill Dickinson and Tom Bevill. The seniority system, which historically worked to Alabama's advantage in the past, served to shut out Alabama's comparatively rookie delegation over the past decade.

But with Spencer Bachus poised to make a serious effort to lead one of the most powerful committees in the House, perhaps Alabama can reclaim some of its lost clout.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Karl Rove's Bama Beginnings

Karl Rove is now widely known as the "brain" behind George W. Bush's political success. But what is less known is how Rove honed his political skill right here in Alabama. Rove was an integral part of the GOP judicial revolution of the mid 1990s which led Republicans from the political wasteland to near dominance of the Alabama court system.

The AP's Phillip Rawls recently reminded us of Rove's Alabama connections and his lasting influence on Alabama justice. The article covers the broad strokes of Rove's Alabama history and comments on his impact. This one sentence pretty well sums up Rove's contribution to Alabama politics.
"Alabama might have eventually gotten there [GOP judicial dominance], but the state got there much quicker because of him[Rove]," said Clark Richardson, former president of the Business Council of Alabama.
However if you are interested in the tactics used by Rove during his Alabama stint, I'd recommend this Atlantic Monthly article from last November. The article focuses on the 1994 Chief Justice race between Perry Hooper, Sr. and Sonny Hornsby(ultimately decided by 262 votes) and how the race served as a template for the Bush/Gore Florida recount in 2000.

This is a great article in understanding how the Alabama state courts turned from solid blue to deep red in the last decade and how those races informed Karl Rove' political outlook -- indeed the very same outlook he used to take George W. Bush to the presidency.

Though Rove is now embroiled in legal problems, his influence on contemporary American politics is difficult to overstate. But what is just as interesting, but less well known, is that Rove developed his cutthroat strategy and hardball tactics right here in Alabama.

Alabama Flunks Campaign Cash Test

Alabama received a "failing" grade from a California based advocacy group measuring the transparency and accessibility of campaign finance information. The California Voter Foundation ranked Alabama as one of the four worst states at disseminating such information.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley is responsible for making public campaign financial disclosures and does so through her state website. Though the SoS site contains all the relevant information, it is too cumbersome and difficult to navigate, says the group.

The Alabama secretary of state Web site, which offers state voter information, is primitive, said Saskia Mills, spokeswoman for the California Voter Foundation. It does not let users manipulate data to find out more about a particular candidate, she said.

"People deserve to know who is funding candidates, and it's tough in Alabama," Mills said.
I've looked at the campaign finance section of the SoS site a few times and I've always been able to eventually find the information I want. But the system could certainly be more advanced and easier to use.

Hopefully, this report will motivate Worley to improve the campaign finance portion of the SoS site. Knowing who is funding our candidates is a vital tool citizens must have to maintain a thriving democracy.

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