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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Heads Up

Look for a Democratic judicial candidate to publicly announce for John Crawley's open appeals seat tomorrow.

Riley Fishing for Stronger GOPer in House Race


Bob Riley is doing his best to undercut a Republican candidate that the GOP establishment had previously supported.

After Nelson Starkey announced his intention to make this his last term, attorney William E. Smith was courted by Republicans at both the local and state level to switch his party allegiance (Smith had been a Democrat until very recently) and run for Starkey's open seat.

At some point between Smith's announcement and the untimely death of Starkey necessitating a special election, GOP strategists soured on Smith's candidacy. I am not sure if it's money woes, personality conflicts, or some other variable, but GOP leaders obviously don't think Smith can beat Democrat Tammy Irons.

With the filing deadline a little over a week away, Republicans are scrambling to find a candidate who can force Democrats to have to at least fight for the seat. The two individuals publicly identified as targets are ex Lauderdale DA Billy Jackson and Steve Pierce, a former Florence city councilman. Neither man has jumped into the race yet, but both have left the door open for a run.

Pierce is the one candidate who seems like he might have the potential to disrupt the coronation of Tammy Irons. In the 2002 Democratic primary against Nelson Starkey, Pierce won more than 47% of the vote. Though he's now switched to the GOP, Pierce has a demonstrated ability to attract Democratic votes. Billy Jackson might be a stronger candidate than Smith, but he is fresh off a 2004 loss to current DA Chris Connolly. Jackson's tenure as DA was due only to his appointment by Riley to succeed the previous DA who retired mid-term. If Jackson can't win running as the incumbent countywide in the boon Republican year of 2004, then I am skeptical of his ability to win as a special election race as a challenger in a house district more Democratic than the county as a whole.

It'll be interesting to keep an eye on this soap opera. If you want to follow the ins and outs of this special election, read Daily Times writer Todd Twilley. He's providing good local coverage of this race.

2010 Census Looks like Status Quo in Alabama, but Changes Loom Elsewhere


Though the next round of federal and state apportionment is still several years away, it is never too early to look toward the new maps. 2012 will be the first election cycle to employ the new districts.

The Census Bureau released its annual estimates of state populations recently. Using these estimates, demographic experts can extrapolate how these trends will continue over the next four years. This allows for predictions of the post 2010 apportionment of the US House of Representatives. Of course these are estimates only and trends can change, especially over several years. However, this new data gives observers an early look into how a post 2010 map would differ from the current set of lines.

From an Alabama perspective, the buzz words will be probably "status quo". Alabama's delegation looks likely to stay at 7 House seats, neither losing nor gaining a member. Alabama's 7 member delegation seems pretty secure as there are several states ahead in both the "lose" and "gain" lines. Simply put, it would take drastic variations in predicated shiftspopulation in Alabama and other states to see a change in the size of the House delegation. This, of course, also means that Alabama's 9 electoral votes will stay consistent through at least 2024 presidential election.

Though Alabama's delegation won't see any change for the fourth straight census (Alabama lost a seat after the 1970 count), there are potentially dramatic population shifts afoot in much of the country. The general trend is a population shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. The current estimates have 11 seats shifting after the next census.

The Losers (States losing seats)
New York -- loses 2 (from 29 to 27)
Ohio -- loses 2 (from 18 to 16)
Pennsylvania -- loses 1 (from 18 to 17)
Michigan -- loses 1 (from 15 to 14)
Illinois -- loses 1 (from 19 to 18)
Minnesota loses 1 (from 8 to 7)
Iowa -- loses 1 (from 5 to 4)
Missouri -- loses 1 (from 9 to 8)

The Winners (States gaining)
Texas -- gains 3 (from 32-35)
Florida -- gains 3 (from 25 to 28)
Arizona -- gains 2 (from 7 to 9)
Nevada -- gains 1 (from 3 to 4)
Utah -- gains 1 (from 3 to 4)
Georgia -- gains 1 (from 13 to 14)

At first glance thse changes would seem to favor Republicans. George W. Bush carried each state that is gaining seats in both 2000 and 2004, while 8 of the 9 states losing seats were carried by Al Gore and/or John Kerry (Missouri being the exception). But Democratics have some reason for optimism because much of the growth in these states is among the Hispanic population. Since Democrats have long been nurturing and appealing to the Hispanic community, they see Florida, Arizona, and Nevada all trending in their direction throughout the decade. Democrats are even optimistic about long-term trends in Texas.

This type of growth explains the soft-pedaling approach national GOP leaders (Bush, Rove, etc) have taken on the issue of immigration. Many Republicans at the grassroots levels are increasingly fervent in their opposition to illegal immigration. However, Bush and the Congressional leadership does not want to alienate Hispanics just as they become able to wield significant influence. Republicans in California saw a generation of Hispanics flock to the Democrats after a GOP backed illegal immigration proposition was perceived as attacking illegal and legal immigrants alike. Republicans are not willing to risk such a national backlash for the short-term benefit of pleasing their base.

So if you want to stay on top of political trends and get a sense of the what the future has in store, check out the data from the Census Bureau and read the analysis by the Polidata group. Believe me, I only skimmed the surface of the useful content. There is much more detail and content in this report.

GOP Polling for Special Election in HD 31

I've received information about a new poll which sheds light on the upcoming GOP special election primary for the vacant State House seat of the late Jack Venable. While Tallassee mayor Bobby Payne, as the sole Democrat running, already has his ticket punched to the general election, the GOP primary pitting Elmore County Commissioner Don Whorton and economic development consultant Barry Mask has the potential to get lively.

The poll was commissioned by the Whorton campaign and tested only likely GOP primary voters. Certainly a poll paid for by one candidate can (and usually should) be viewed with a cautious eye. However, this poll was not undertaken to push Whorton's standing among interests group or media, but to gauge the current state of the race for the use of their campaign. So you can quibble with the numbers if you'd like, but I am inclined to give them a fair amount of credence.

The head to head numbers have Whorton at 35% and Mask at 15%. But as is often the case, there is more to the poll than just the initial matchup numbers. Whorton has roughly a 2 to 1 name recognition advantage (approx 65 to 35) over Mask, which is unsurprising given Whorton's stint on the county commission.

What is surprising is that the negatives on each candidate don't follow a similar scale. While Whorton reaps the expected negative perceptions from serving during a fairly controversial time on the commission, Mask also has a significant amount of negatives. Since most of Mask's career has been behind the scenes it is unexpected (and a bit baffling) that he would not enjoy a significantly better positive/negative ratio than his more battle scarred opponent.

Since Mask is generally the favorite of the Montgomery GOP establishment, he is expected to out-raise Whorton. Interestingly, Mask's once (and future?) rival State Sen Larry Dixon has been aggressively pushing a Mask candidacy. Dixon wants to see Mask take the house seat so he (Mask) will be disinclined to primary Dixon in June, as was expected before Venable's death. Don't be shocked to see Mask lose the primary then turn around and challenge his current benefactor Dixon for his State Senate seat. Dixon's "investment" in Mask's political aspirations could come back to haunt him in a few months.

Even though Mask should have a bigger warchest than Whorton, the polling shows that he has a lot of work to do before the primary and time doesn't seem to be on his side. Christmas and New Years celebrations will reduce an already short six week campaign to an even more abbreviated three week sprint. This leaves Mask with a small and closing window in which to make up considerable ground in the primary. So Mask is left with less than a month to raise his name ID, give voters a reason to vote for him (or against Whorton), and finally to energize his supporters and turn them out for a low interest special election on a cold Tuesday in January.

And that doesn't even take into account Whorton's strengths as a candidate. He is in his second term on the county commission and seems to be a solid ideological fit with the district (e.g. he's a past local ALFA president). And while his service on the commission has no doubt earned him some criticism, my understanding is that most of his detractors aren't necessarily traditional GOP primary voters.

So, while Mask certainly has support among some powerful individuals and groups, many in Montgomery seemed to have underestimated Whorton's appeal to local Republican voters. This of course wouldn't be the first time that a state (or national party) has been rebuffed by the locals.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Special Election Set in HD 01

Governor Riley recently set the dates for the special election to fill the seat of recently deceased State Rep Nelson Starkey. They are as follows:

Filing Deadline: January 6
Primary: February 14
Runoff/General: March 21
General (if runoff was necessary): April 25


Since Starkey had previously announced his intention to retire at the end of his current term, the race to replace him was already well under way. And while many such open seat races would have attracted a slew of ambitious candidates, only two have officially announced plans to run to follow the longtime legislator.

During the early grappling to succeed Starkey, Florence attorney Tammy Irons (D) has emerged as the frontrunner. Though the city of Florence and Lauderdale county have been historically Democratic (the district voted for Siegelman over Riley in 2002), Irons has thus far been successful in deterring primary competition. Tammy Irons is a cousin of Florence mayor Bobby Irons and was instrumental in the efforts leading to his recent election. In addition to backers of the mayor, Irons also has much of the local support of the Starkey organization.

The only candidate that has come forward to challenge Irons is attorney William E. Smith. Montgomery Republicans had high hopes for Smith, a recent transfer to the GOP, but that early optimism has turned sour in the months since Starkey's retirement announcement. Smith's campaign has not taken off the way Republicans had hoped.

Of course now that a special election is under way additional candidates could join the race. Perhaps a candidate who was not inclined to run in the marathon campaign required for the open seat race would be enticed to make the special election sprint. But given Irons' and Smith's head start, it is doubtful that other strong candidates will emerge.

If Smith and Irons are indeed the only candidates to file, primaries would not need to be held. In that case, the general election would be held on March 21. This schedule would give the winner of that election a small window of activity during the legislative session. And certainly the winner of the special election would have to be favored to hold the seat during the 2006 legislative elections.

Though Smith has indicated he will run in November no matter what the special election outcome, the smart money is on Tammy Irons to represent House District 01 for the foreseeable future.

Monday, December 26, 2005

With Friends Like These...

Ensuring that Attorney General Troy King's Christmas included a little heartburn, Christian Coalition chief John Giles blasted King's efforts on gambling crack downs. Though King has undertaken some anti-gambling measures, they are apparently not strident enough for Giles. Giles identified King as his "friend", but in a letter to King (and apparently the press) he accused the Attorney General's office of a "lack of tenacity and leadership" in combating the "cancerous plague of gambling".

King has shut down at least one gambling venue in Troy and has filed suits challenging the legality of bingo games in Lowndes county. Yet Giles takes issue with King's tactics and fervor in addressing the gambling issue.

With such a public rebuke of King, one has to wonder if Giles is encouraging or assisting a potential bid against King in the GOP primary. Many names have been bandied about as potential challengers since King's 2003 appointment as Attorney General. But no candidate has emerged or even shown much public interest in recent months. Montgomery attorney Will Sellers is an oft-mentioned challenger, but he hasn't sent any recent signals that he'll make the race.

If no Republican challenger does emerge then all Giles and the Christian Coalition is doing is further weakening King when he'll need all his political strength to withstand a strong challenge from John Tyson.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Weekend Winner and Loser -- 12/24 edition

Winners of the Week: William Keith Watkins and Kristi Dubose

The above Alabamians were confirmed by the US Senate to seats on the Federal District Court. Watkins, a Troy attorney, will take over the state's Middle District, while Dubose will sit on the Southern District. Mitchell's nomination came as a result of close ties to Richard Shelby and Dubose's relationship with Jeff Sessions no doubt helped her land the post.

In contrast to some previous judicial nominees (e.g. Bill Pryor) Watkins and Dubose were confirmed rather painlessly.

Loser of the Week: The nameless entity waging the "War on Christmas"

Talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson have been telling me for weeks that nefarious forces (ACLU? Wal-Mart??) are trying to keep me from celebrating Christmas. Well, I don't know exactly who is trying to cancel Christmas, but they've obviously failed as I (and everyone I know) am looking forward to a Christmas celebration tomorrow. Better luck next year, grinches!

Friday, December 23, 2005

AlabamaElections Under the Tree

I will be traveling over Christmas, but I will make a concerted effort to have new content posted every day over the Christmas holidays. Circumstances might force me to miss a day or two over the next couple of weeks, but AlabamaElections will be a place you can seek refuge when you've had your fill of egg nog, extended family, and the Poulan Weedeater Bowl.

Also, at some point in the next couple of weeks I am going to be tinkering with the design and format of the blog. No drastic changes, but I am going to see if I can pack in a little more information and maintain (or improve) the readability of the site. So don't worry if things look a little different, but do let me know what you think of the changes.

And finally keep an eye on the Huntsville Times over the weekend. I'm told they will have a story focusing on the impact of the internet on Alabama politics.

Merry Christmas!

Appeals Races Fill Up

Appeals court races are not usually the most exciting or high profile contests. But they are still statewide seats that can provide a launching pad for future runs at higher office (Just ask Glenn Murdock and Sue Bell Cobb.)

This week saw the birth of candidacies by Republicans Phillip Wood and Terry Moore for open appellate seats. But the most interesting occurrence surrounding these events was the appearance of Tom Parker at the Wood announcement.

This is further evidence of an organized effort by religious conservatives to field their own judicial slate unafraid to take on business-backed established GOP judges. Though many feel Roy Moore is behind this effort, the face in front is that of Tom Parker. As one e-mailer said to me this week, "There may not be a Moore ticket, but it sure looks like some kind of Parker ticket is taking shape".

Democrats got some good news as well as Birmingham attorney Jim McFerrin signaled interest in an appellate seat. Dem chair Joe Turnham also mentioned another mystery candidate who he expects to announce soon. Counting those two candidates, Democrats still need to field 6 more candidates for a full judicial slate. I expect the Democrats to run candidates for all the court seats, but at this rate there might be more Parker-backed candidates than Democrats after the April filing deadline.

Keep track of the candidate developments with the AlabamaElections Directory.

He Said, He Said

State Finance Director and former Riley legal adviser Jim Main recently took issue with Terry Butts' recollection of an August 2003 meeting revolving around the 10 Commandments controversy between the Riley and Moore camps. I discussed the original article yesterday, and to be fair I thought I'd mention Main's rebuttal to Butts' version.

Butts indicated Main counseled Riley to wash his hands of the issue and let acting Chief Justice Gorman Houston remove the monument. Main counters that he never spoke to Houston about the issue before or after the Butts meeting.

Here's the relevant text:

Butts: "That was Main's advice: 'We don't have to do anything because Justice Houston and the court are going to do it for us. And that's just how it played out."

Main: "I had had no conversation with Gorman Houston prior to that meeting you wrote about, and I don't recall having a meeting with him afterward, either. And I certainly would not have made the kind of statements attributed to me by Terry Butts."
It's a relatively minor point as Main and Butts were not the primary actors in the first Riley/Moore showdown and don't look to have too high a profile in the upcoming one. Of course Gorman Houston could clear this up if he were so inclined. But something tells me he'd rather leave all this unpleasantness behind him. I don't blame him.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ideology Scores for AL US House Members

Following Spencer Bachus' recent vote for the McCain "anti-torture" amendment there's been some discussion alleging Bachus is insufficiently conservative. While much of politics is perception, I thought I'd refer to the 2006 Almanac of American Politics, which objectively measures the ideology of each member of Congress, to shed some light on the debate. You are certainly free to disagree with the Almanac's measure, but they are widely considered to be a definitive source for American politics.

The Almanac measures each member's ideology on economic, social, and foreign policy. Here are the 2004 results for Alabama's delegation.

1st District -- Jo Bonner (R)
Economic - 13% liberal/87% conservative
Social - 24% liberal/76% conservative
Foreign - 0% liberal/96 % conservative

2nd District -- Terry Everett (R)
Economic - 25% liberal/74% conservative
Social - 0% liberal/91% conservative
Foreign - 25% liberal/68 % conservative

3rd District -- Mike Rogers (R)
Economic - 26% liberal/74% conservative
Social - 25% liberal/73% conservative
Foreign - 17% liberal/78% conservative

4th District -- Robert Aderholt (R)
Economic - 27% liberal/72% conservative
Social - 0% liberal/91% conservative
Foreign - 4% liberal/93 % conservative

5th District -- Bud Cramer (D)
Economic - 50% liberal/49% conservative
Social - 48% liberal/51% conservative
Foreign - 54% liberal/45 % conservative

6th District -- Spencer Bachus (R)
Economic - 17% liberal/80% conservative
Social - 20% liberal/77% conservative
Foreign - 25% liberal/68 % conservative

7th District -- Artur Davis (D)
Economic - 60% liberal/40% conservative
Social - 64% liberal/35% conservative
Foreign - 66% liberal/ 33% conservative

Remember, this information is just for 2004 so it's only a snapshot of each legislator's overall record, but it probably gives a good sense of their general ideology. So draw your own conclusions.

Project Vote Smart also has dozens of interest group ratings of members of Congress. Some of the groups are narrow in scope (e.g. gun rights/gun control) while others are more broad (conservative/liberal). So if the information I've provided above just whets your appetite for ideological measurement, then Project Vote Smart is an all you can eat buffet.

The Fight Endures Forever

Bill Barrow at the Mobile Register has a really interesting insider look at the behind the scenes wrangling over Roy Moore's 10 Commandments monument. Both Bob Riley and Terry Butts, a Moore emissary, went on the record in describing an August 2003 meeting about how the governor's office could handle the issue.

This meeting took place several months before the monument was removed, but it reveals the shadow boxing between the two camps. Riley and Butts differ a little on some of the details, but the meeting seemed to revolve around how far Riley was willing to go in order to back Moore's play. Riley says that the Moore side wanted the governor's office to use the Alabama National Guard to protect the monument. Butts says that they simply wanted Riley to issue an executive order indicating that he (Riley) wouldn't allow the removal of the monument.

Either way, both men seem to acknowledge that Riley wasn't willing to risk a potential showdown with the White House. It really is a fascinating look at the inner workings of both the Riley and Moore camps in the months leading to the final confrontation. I recommend you read the entire article.

I am curious why Riley is willing to be so public and candid with the dynamics of his decision making process. By participating in this story Riley is able to get his side of the monument battle out without having to directly engage Moore. Indeed, in this article Riley signals what his likely response to the issue will be:

"We supported Roy all the way down the line, writing briefs and making public statements," Riley said, "but that[a federal showdown] was just something I was not willing to do."

We'll see if Moore and his allies let this story fly under the radar or if they choose to engage the governor and fight the 10 Commandments battle all over again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Alabama Women and Alabama Politics

Joe Reed recently made some news when he called for Democrats to recruit more women to run for the legislature.

Reed's implication that Alabama lags behind the rest of the nation in female legislators is correct. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, Alabama's state legislature ranks 49th in % of female legislators (ahead of only South Carolina). Three women (2 D and 1 R) currently serve in the State Senate while 12 women (10 D and 2 R) sit in the State House. That means women represent an anemic 10.7% of the Alabama legislature.

But don't look now because that percentage could dramatically drop in 2006. With beleaguered State Sen Sundra Escott facing a tough primary challenge from State Rep Oliver Robinson and State Sen Harri Anne Smith expected to file for governor, it is certainly possible that Vivian Davis-Figures might be the sole woman left in the State Senate after the next round of elections. I haven't looked in detail at the women in the State House, but I don't expect to see a dramatic increase in that body either.

Of course Alabama's highest profile female politician, Lurleen Wallace, was hardly elected on her own, even though her popularity eventually succeeded that of her husband. And no woman has ever been elected to Congress from Alabama. As far as I can tell, Faye Baggiano's (D) narrow 1990 loss to incumbent Bill Dickinson(R) is the closest a woman has been to winning election to Congress.

However, Alabama does have some success to point to when it comes to electing women. Four of the seven top statewide offices are held by women (LG, Treas, SoS, Aud). And women have also had success in statewide judicial races, and on the Public Service Commission, and State Board of Education.

So while women may be under-represented in the both the state and national legislative bodies, Alabama does have plenty of prominent female elected officials, both past and present. And with many eyeing office in 2006 (from governor on down), Alabama women will continue to play an important role in state politics.

Riley Approval Gets a Christmas Bounce

SurveyUSA has released it's December tracking numbers of Bob Riley's approval ratings.

52% of adults approve of the job Riley is doing, while 41% disapprove. These numbers are a slight improvement on November's numbers which had him at a 50/45 approval/disapproval. So Riley's net approval more than doubled in the last month from +5% to +11%.

SurveyUSA provides the internals of the poll so you can see how specific subgroups feel about Riley. Also check out the ups and downs of Riley's approvals since the poll started in May.

These results come as welcome news to Riley as they are his best numbers since his post-Katrina high of 58% approval. However, some pollsters will say that polls taken in December will skew a little more positive than usual since many people are in a more charitable frame of mind due to the Christmas season. There's no way to know for sure, but if Riley can hold on to and build on these gains throughout the coming months, he'll be in good shape for the June primary.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Biddle/Beason Battle for Future of GOP

One of the most interesting election results on the night of June 6th will come out of the State Senate distict 17's GOP primary.

That race will feature a generational and ideological showdown between State Sen Jack Biddle (R-Gardendale) and State Rep Scott Beason (R-Gardendale).

Biddle has been in the Alabama legislature since 1974. Indeed when Biddle was first elected to the State House, Scott Beason was only 5 years old. Biddle served as a Democrat until the mid 1990s and was elected to his first Senate term in 1994. The upcoming 2006 GOP primary will actually be Biddle's first competitive race since the 1994 primary . And who was his opponent in the 1994 GOP primary? None other than Scott Beason.

Biddle defeated Beason with a 60/40 split in that first race. But four years after his defeat by Biddle, Beason ousted incumbent GOP State Rep Jim Townsend and has since become a conservative firebrand in the Democratic House. Beason styles himself as Paul Hubbert and the AEA's number one enemy in the legislature. And while Biddle has been an elected Republican for over a decade, some in the GOP (such as Beason) feel that he has remained too close to his Democratic roots.

While a longtime incumbent like Biddle is normally immune to primary challenges, a Beason candidacy certainly gives Biddle reason to worry. Biddle has not had a tough race since the 1994 primary which could leave his campaign organization and skills a little rusty. Beason's fierce 1998 race and a mildly competitive 2002 primary should have kept his political structure sharper.

Also, part of the Senate district is actually fairly new territory for Biddle. Blount county was added to the 17th district following the 2002 redistricting. And while both Biddle and Beason share a Jefferson county base, Blount's conservative leanings could very well favor the challenger.

Money will be an issue for Beason however. While Biddle should be very well financed from his decades of contacts, Beason's bomb-throwing brand of politics has not exactly endeared him to many legislative interests. However, if Beason is able to energize conservatives throughout the state, he might be able to raise enough money to remain competitive with the incumbent.

Though the winner of the primary will certainly hold onto this safely Republican seat this race has the potential to have significant implications for Republican politics in Alabama. A Beason victory could signal a changing of the guard among the state's GOP and usher in a wave of more strident and conservative Republican politics. And conversely if Biddle is able to rebuff the Beason challenge, the more conciliatory, moderate brand of legislative politics will have been reaffirmed.

I am not sure who will win this rematch, but I'd wager it'll be closer than the 60/40 result in the first Biddle/Beason duel.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The nationwide battle raging over the "War on Christmas" finally reached Alabama this week. Unsurprisingly the controversy found its way into the Republican gubernatorial primary.

The Roy Moore campaign sent out a recent fundraising letter ("authored" by Moore's wife) using the specter of the "ACLU and other anti-religious groups" to try to raise money before the December 31 filing deadline. Here's a taste of Kayla Moore's pitch:

The ACLU and other anti-religious groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State run by Barry Lynn, oppose prayer in school and any mention of God in our public life. They will stop at nothing to keep Roy Moore out of the Governor's office in Alabama!

In short, they want to continue to promote homosexual marriages, maintain abortion on demand and remove Christ from Christmas.

They FEAR nothing more than the emergence of a powerful national spokesperson for Christian conservatism. And make no mistake: If elected governor of Alabama, my husband will be that spokesman!
The cynical among us might view this tactic as a politicization of Christmas and a way to raise some money off of a divisive religious debate, but hey, Christmas only comes once a year.

For his part, Bob Riley has been less vocal about the "War on Christmas" controversy, but the Christmas cards he sent show that he might be sensitive to criticism from the right. The text of Riley's card is as follows:

"During this Christmas season may you be surrounded by the love of family and friends and filled with the spirit of the risen Christ"
Riley's card also quotes a passage from Matthew, relating to the Biblical story of the birth of Christ.

In fact Riley's mention of the "risen Christ" places him squarely atop the religiosity list in comparison to the governors of the other states. Riley is one of 9 governors (out of 37 who sent seasonal cards) who use the word "Christmas". (Stateline.org has a thorough breakdown of the seasonal wishes of all 50 governors.)

The cards explicit religious text is not the first time Riley has used such themes, but given the looming showdown with Roy Moore and the recent "pro-Christmas" movement it is difficult not to see everything through a political prism.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Alabama 3rd Most Hostile State Toward Immigrants

A new 50 state Survey USA poll tests each state's attitudes towards immigration. The results lend weight to the speculation forwarded by myself and others that immigration might be a sleeper issue in 2006 state elections.

The poll asked the following question

"Which of these 2 statements do you agree with more:

One: Immigrants take jobs away from Americans.
Two: Immigrants do jobs that Americans don't want."

56% of Alabamians agreed with the first statement while 40% agreed with the second.

These results placed Alabama behind only West Virginia and Indiana in negative perceptions of immigrants.

These results further convince me that the issue of immigration (illegal or otherwise) could be a major issue in the 2006 elections. I've said before that I think such a scenario would favor challengers and outsiders rather than incumbents. An issue like illegal immigration has an inherent anti-incumbent/anti-status quo bias.

While I doubt many candidates will speak in favor of illegal immigration, there are many in the business community who rely on cheap, immigrant labor. This could open up another fissure among the GOP if Roy Moore speaks out against both illegal and legal immigration. Bob Riley's staunch support from the likes of the BCA might make him reticent to engage the issue. This would give Roy Moore another opportunity to cast Riley as outside the mainstream of conservative thought.

Some pundits have discounted the potential impact of the issue, but this poll shows that there is certainly a constituency in Alabama that feels strongly about immigration.

ADP Blog MIA?

The Alabama Democratic Party recently made the leap to a sharp new website. But I noticed the ADP's blog not only didn't make the transition, but also has been evicted from its old site. Now the ADP blog will probably soon reappear at their new site, but I won't be shocked if it is on a permanent vacation.

I've always thought their blog was a little too Democrat and not enough Alabama. For example they link to such prominent lefty bloggers like Daily Kos and Atrios. And they recently called Sen Joe Lieberman (D - CT) to task over his comments backing Bush on the Iraq War. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with either of those things, but I am not sure the ADP wants to be associated (even in blog form) with arch-liberal bloggers or to be publicly to the left of a generally liberal senator on such a divisive issue.

And even though I was recently a little critical of the ADP blog for their over-the-top rhetoric about Dem chances in the special election to keep Jack Venable's seat, I still like to see the ADP in the blogging business. Alabama Republicans sure haven't advanced that far. But I won't be shocked if Joe Turnham or some other Alabama Dem saw the blog and decided it might be doing more harm than good.

Read any good books lately?

As the Christmas season approaches many will find themselves with a little leisure time on their hands for a change. Or perhaps some of us are looking for last minute gift ideas for the bookworm of the family. So if you've read a good book recently or just want to recommend one of your favorites, go ahead and discuss it in the comments of this section. Certainly books about Alabama or politics (or both) would be ideal, but a good book is a good book.

So, read any good books?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Winner and Loser of the Week

Winner of the Week : Glenn Murdock
Officially, Civil Appeals Judge Glenn Murdock's campaign for a seat on the State Supreme Court began this week as he publicly announced his candidacy. Unofficially, Murdock claimed the mantle of frontrunner in his race against Jean Brown as representatives of the BCA joined his long term allies in the evangelical community in promoting his candidacy. Given the unification of the long sparring GOP factions, Murdock is now a heavy favorite to win not just the primary, but also the general.

Runner-up: Legislative Democrats
The decision of Zeb Little to stick around another term saves the Democrats from having tough fights in Cullman on their hands in both the Senate and the House. A retiring Little coupled with the expected open Neal Morrison House seat would have given Republicans even more targets to chip away (or even possibly erase) the Democratic majority.

Loser of the Week : Neal Morrison
Neal Morrison didn't do anything to earn this designation, but circumstances forced it upon him. After the recent death of Jack Venable, Morrison vied for the vacant chair of the House Rules Committee. Speaker Seth Hammett passed over Morrison and, in an unusual move, awarded the chair to Majority Leader Ken Guin. Then when Zeb Little looked likely to relinquish his state senate seat in the 2006 elections, all eyes turned to Morrison as the logical successor. However, before Morrison could even measure the drapes in the Senate office, Little announced his bid for re-election. So Morrison was passed over for promotion for the second time in a matter of weeks. Don't feel too bad for him though, he did get the chair of the House Constitution and Elections Committee and the smart money still has him winding up in the Senate sooner or later.

Runner-up: Jean Brown : She probably deserves this distinction, but she's had a tough week already. Actually she's had a tough year and a half. No need to pile on. I do think she'd be smart to find another race. Nobody likes a two-time loser.

To nominate candidates for next week's winner and loser, email me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

State Rep Nelson Starkey Passes Away

Longtime State Rep Nelson Starkey (D - Florence) died yesterday after losing his battle against prostate cancer. Starkey had been in the House since 1978 and was a leader in the areas of education and highway funding.

His colleagues praised his character and career:

"He will be missed in the House, where he worked hard to represent his constituents,'' [Bob]Riley said in a statement. "He was a patriot who served his
country in the military, and we are grateful for his service. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Anne, and their children at this time.''

"His personal effort to increase funding for public schools kept the issue at the forefront of legislative debate for many years,'' [Seth]Hammett said. "In addition, his efforts to improve Alabama's highway infrastructure led to safer roadways and enhanced economic development for all our citizens.''

State Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals, who served with Starkey virtually his entire legislative career, remembered Starkey as a "gentleman and public servant.''"Nelson was known by all throughout the legislature, even in the Senate,'' Denton said. "You can't say that about everybody.''

"He was the best example of what a public servant ought to be,'' [Lynn]Greer said. "You never had an argument with Nelson, you never had a disagreement, you could work out any problem.''
Starkey's funeral will be held Saturday in Florence.

New Weekend Feature Beginning Tomorrow

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a new weekly feature at AlabamaElections.

Each weekend, I'll identify one "winner" of the week and one "loser" of the week in Alabama politics. I already have this weekend's dignitaries selected, but feel free to email me throughout the week with nominations for either honor.

The games begin tomorrow.

Tin Cup Redux

Earlier in the week, I added an Amazon box that would have allowed readers who were so inclined to donate small amounts to keep AlabamaElections growing and thriving. However, several of you emailed me to let me know that it wasn't working properly.

So I installed a Paypal box instead, which does function properly. You should see the "Donate" button at the top right of the blog. This will allow readers to use their credit cards/checking account to support AlabamaElections. However, if you do run into problems or would like to donate in some other manner, please email me and let me know.

And as I said before, I only added the "donations box" in order to raise a small amount of money to use to improve the blog. I decided against advertisements since I feel those would distract from the reading experience. And again, I will not be mentioning the Paypal box regularly or trying to coerce donations.

I just wanted it to be known that the new box is up and operational.

Thanks for reading.

Bachus Splits with GOP over "Torture"

Wednesday the US House voted to add an anti-torture amendment backed by John McCain to a Defense Appropriations bill. The amendment passed 308-122, with 121 Republicans in opposition. Jim Marshall of Georgia was the only Democrat to oppose the amendment.

Though the House GOP was nearly split in half on the issue, of Alabama's five Republican Representatives only Spencer Bachus (R - Birmingham) supported the "McCain amendment". Which means it can be argued that Jo Bonner, Terry Everett, Mike Rogers, and Robert Aderholt all tacitly accept interrogation tactics some consider to be torture.

Bachus' split from his colleagues is not especially surprising. Though he is generally as conservative as the other Republican members of the delegation, Bachus has been a consistent advocate for international human rights. He's led the charge against the Sudanese government, which he sees as genocidal, and was an early supporter of debt-relief for third world nations.

And yesterday, just one day after the vote, the White House relaxed its opposition to the McCain amendment and is now supporting the anti-torture language. Bush certainly didn't do his supporters in the House any favors on this issue. After 121 Republicans cast a tough vote toeing the Bush line against the McCain amendment, Bush cuts them off at the knees by caving to McCain. I'd imagine there are many Republican House members who'd like to have that vote back.

And if all this seems a little familiar, it's probably because the Senate went through the torture fight a couple of months ago. And then, like now, Alabama's delegation was split. Shelby voted for the McCain amendment, while Sessions was one of 9 to oppose it.

Feds Harass Grantland

After a year long probe into a potential conflict between his state job and role as a legislator, federal officials have forced State Rep Ronald Grantland (D - Hartselle) to leave his job at the state Department of Public Health.

A federal judge ruled that holding both positions put Grantland in violation of the Hatch Act. Thus Grantland decided to retire, instead of leaving the legislature. The Hatch Act prohibits government employees from participating in partisan elections, but is usually only applied to those at the federal level. I haven't seen a specific reason why the judge applied it to Grantland, a state employee, in this situation. Indeed, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel only notified Grantland of a potential violation in the middle of his second term.

Grantland's decision to leave his state job lets the matter drop and it is unlikely the issue will be a major factor in his upcoming race for re-election. But with all the potential conflicts of interest brewing in the state legislature, it's odd that the Feds would choose Grantland, a healthcare worker, to make an example of.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tom Bevill Raises Money for GOP from Beyond the Grave

Tom Bevill (D - Jasper) was one of Alabama's staunchest Democrats in an era when many of his fellow Alabamians grew more comfortable with the Republicans. However, sometime after his death in March he must have switched parties.

A couple in Neel, AL reported a phone call in which a recording claiming to be Tom Bevill offered tickets to the Republican National Convention (at $500 a pop) and a chance to meet with President Bush.

More from the article...

"It was a recording, but I decided to listen," he said. "When it got to the end of the recording, a man got on the phone. This is when he started telling me about coming to the convention. When I told him we couldn't come, he asked me to make a smaller donation to the Republican Party."

"It's a scam, and we want to warn people about it," Barbara Blankenship, said. "They told us we would get a plaque and mingle with the president. We're just retired people from Neel, Ala."
I don't know what to make of this bizarre story. It should be noted, though, that the Blankenships are the only ones to report such a call.

Alabama's Rising Stars ?

On it's daily blog, the D.C. insider magazine National Journal put together a list of individuals it sees as "rising stars" in Alabama politics (they're doing it all for 50 states).

Here's their list from 2003 when they did the same thing (I'm just pulling the names from their list, you'll have to go the actual blog to read their comments on each individual).

State Rep. Mike Hubbard (R)
State Sen. Curt Lee (R)
State Sen. Harri Anne Smith (R)
Atty Stephen Black (D)
Businessman Greg Foster (D)
Atty Pam Slate (D)
Atty Susan Kennedy (D)

Interesting list. I won't be too critical because hindsight is 20/20, but it looks like only one of those on the list (Hubbard) is likely to be in office come 2007.

And here is their new list of future stars (and again there are comments about each on the NJ blog).

AL GOP Chair Twinkle Cavanaugh (R)
AG Troy King (R)
Auditor Beth Chapman (R)
Judge Sue Bell Cobb (D)
Mobile Dist Atty John Tyson Jr. (D)
AL Dem Chair/'98/'02 AL 03 nominee Joe Turnham (D)
State Sen. Maj. Leader Zeb Little (D)

(They also give an honorable mention to Artur Davis (D) and one of his staffers, Corey Ealons (D).)

Lots of big names on this list. But I am not sure people like King and Chapman, who already hold statewide office, can be called "future stars". And a couple on this list (Andress and Turnham) have already tried their hand out at elective politics only to return to the sidelines.

Tyson, Cobb, and Little are understandable choices. But Cobb will have to get some help from the GOP primary to break the Republican stranglehold on the Supreme Court. And Little's future stock nearly fell to earth with his ambivalence about seeking re-election. Tyson, however, is a good choice as he is currently a county official and after the 2006 elections could find himself as the highest ranking Democrat in the state.

I'll also point out that they mentioned both parties presumed nominees for the AG's race (King and Tyson). It's going to be hard for them both to be "rising stars" as one will have his statewide hopes dashed in November. On the other hand, at least they'll get one right.

I've been kicking around the idea of doing a "rising star" list of my own in some form or another. So keep an eye out for it in the week or two.

New Shelby/Sessions Numbers

It's time for the monthly update of the approval ratings of Alabama's senators.

Richard Shelby (R) - Approve 61% / Disapprove 27%
Jeff Sessions (R) - Approve 56% /Disapprove 30%

Last month Shelby was at 58/33 and Sessions at 55/35. So that's some small movement in their favor.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Whither Noopie?

All the recent coverage of the late Tookie Williams made me wonder whatever became of former Alabama state rep "Noopie" Cosby?

Cosby (pictured right) was a Democrat from Selma who served a couple of terms, but then fell of my radar. Does anyone know what he's up to now? I think we can all agree that government functions best when there's a Noopie involved.

Well at least we still have "Tootie".

AlabamaElections Reversal: Zeb Little IS running for re-election

That sound you hear is a huge sigh of relief from Democrats in the state legislature now that State Sen Zeb Little has signaled that he will run for re-election.

Little's decision gives Democrats a boost in the upcoming legislative elections. Had he declined to seek re-election, Democrats would have had to defend Little's state senate and Neal Morrison's state house seat. While, they may have ultimately held both of these seats, Democrats and their allies would have needed to spend a considerable amount of money to do so. Now Democrats are able to spend that money protecting vulnerable incumbents and targeting Republican held seats.

Little's decision also keeps a lid on a leadership fight among the pro-Barron Democrats. A Little retirement would have upset the expected line of succession among the controlling Barron faction.

Of course, Little's decision to run for re-election comes after my post last week saying that he would not run. Obviously, I got the final result wrong. And for that I take full responsibility. I did have two members of the state legislature (one Dem, one GOP) and a local Cullman pol who told me that Little would hang it up. But I pulled the trigger on the story too early. It's my understanding that Little had decided to call it quits last week, but reconsidered over the weekend (with help from key Democrats and their allies). Little's decision came only after a careful balance of personal, professional, and political decision and I ended up on the wrong side of the Hamlet routine.

However, politics is a pretty fluid process and there certainly may be other times when my information doesn't pan out (or in this case isn't quite current). And while I can't guarantee accuracy 100% of the time, I will be straightforward and let you know what I know when I know it. And if I get something wrong (like now) I'll own up to it and then get back to work.

Murdock's Moment

Though I swung and missed at the Little story (see above), it looks like Glenn Murdock's BCA support is even deeper than I had thought.

Murdock officially announced his Supreme Court campaign yesterday and representatives from each wing of the GOP were present.

Tom Dart, executive director of the Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama, said his group is supporting Murdock and he expects most other business groups to do the same. Dart described Murdock as "a good, conservative judge" who can bridge the business and religious sides of the Republican party.

"He just has bona fide evangelical legal credentials," [Tom]Parker said.
With those two guys (and who they represent) in his corner , I'm ready to go ahead and pencil in Murdock's name on the November ballot. I knew that the BCA types were going to back Murdock, but it is quite a coup to have them so public so early.

At this rate I am not sure that Jean Brown will even make it to the June primary. She should look at running for an appellate seat or maybe even a local judgeship. With a unified GOP, John England, or other Democrats looking at this race, might be smart to take the same advice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

AlabamaElections in a Bookstore Near You

Soon after I started AlabamaElections, I was approached by the political magazine Campaigns and Elections to contribute to their new feature detailing political happenings in each state. The first installment of this new feature has now been published. In addition to a piece about Alabama politics, I also contributed on three other states (KY, TN, WV).

You can view the content on the web, and I believe Borders (and maybe other bookstore chains) also carries the magazine. If you're interested in subscription information, you can click here.

Given the necessary brevity and the generic nature of the feature, there is not much new in my piece about Alabama. However, if you are interested in politics in other states, this feature is an invaluable tool.

There should be at least nine more installment over the next calendar year and I'll let you know when they're available on the the magazine's website.

The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

Don Siegelman's legal troubles got a little stickier yesterday as a federal grand jury handed down a new indictment adding another count of mail fraud and conspiracy against the former governor. Philip Rawls at the AP has a comprehensive look at the legal aspects of the indictments.

Siegelman's response to the new charges was predictable.

"They are going to try to pull every trick in the book to manipulate the 2006 election," the former governor said Monday.
It should be noted that these charges come on the heels of another recent article that discusses the difficulty of proving a quid pro quo in the Siegelman case. Because the alleged bribes went into Siegelman's campaign treasury instead of his pocket, it will be harder for the government to prove intent.

So is the new indictment just a way for the government to throw more at Siegelman and hope that something sticks? I don't know. Perhaps some of the attorneys who visit and post here can break down the merits of the case. But either way, Siegelman's path back to the governor's office just got a little longer.

Troy King: Smoke 'em if you Got 'em

John Davis at the Montgomery Advertiser recently pointed out that Troy King declined to add his name to an effort led by 30 state attorney generals to urge Hollywood to put anti-smoking announcements at the beginning of films.

I don't see the rationale behind King's decision. Of course past GOP attorney generals Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor caught flack for refusing to join the national effort to sue the tobacco companies. And while many people disagreed with their refusal to join the suit, there was at least a principle behind it. But I don't see one with this issue.

I can't imagine the tobacco companies (historically GOP allies) are too concerned with the possibility of anti-smoking PSA's. The tobacco lobby even foots the bill for millions of dollars of anti-smoking ads themselves. I don't think that King would risk alienating any significant interest or constituency by signing the letter. And what Republican worth his salt bypasses an opportunity to harangue Hollywood?

Perhaps the most puzzling part of the story was the AG's office reply to why King didn't sign the letter.

"The attorney general doesn't smoke," [deputy AG Keith]Miller said. "He doesn't drink. He is against youth smoking."
Ok, great. But what does that have to do with the anti-smoking letter? I'd like too see at least some sort of reasoned rationale or principle involved in the decision.

Of course this is a minor story, but Troy King needs to figure out how to stop this constant drip of unfavorable press. King has managed to avoid any major gaffes or scandals, but there has been a steady drumbeat of recent stories that cast King in a less than positive light.

It doesn't take a huge scandal to get a politician defeated. The political career that dies a death of a thousand small cuts is still dead.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tin Cup Time

When I started AlabamaElections I had no idea how quickly and consistently it would grow. As my blog has grown over the past months, I've found myself spending more and more time maintaining both its content and technical aspects .

Recently I've explored a few ways to defray some of the time and software costs inherent in maintaining an active blog. I considered placing advertisements on the site, but I think that would detract from the readers' experience.

So I've added an Amazon Honor System Box at the top of the blog. This allows individuals who are so inclined to donate small amounts ($1 - $50) to AlabamaElections to show support and help keep the site growing and thriving. AlabamaElections will never be a pay site and I will keep blogging no matter what. But reader support would allow for upgrades to the site's server (in order to leave the free, but cumbersome Blogger/Blogspot network) as well as explore other advancements.

This link answers the basic questions about the Amazon Honor System process. Your privacy and anonymity are guaranteed. Let me know if you have any concerns or questions.

I don't intend to mention the Amazon box often and this may very well be the only time I do so. I would appreciate your consideration in supporting the site if you enjoy its content. But more than anything I'll hope you'll keep reading. Thanks.

BCA Backs Murdock, Spurns Brown

When State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Harwood (R-Tuscaloosa ) announced he wouldn't seek re-election in April, the Republican primary to fill his seat looked like it would host one of the more competitive races on the June ballot. GOP heavyweights Ex-Justice Jean Brown and Appeals Judge Glenn Murdock quickly voiced interest in the race.

On its surface a Brown/Murdock faceoff looks like another in a long line of recent GOP primaries pitting "business conservatives" against "religious conservatives". A race between Brown, who has always been a BCA (Business Council of Alabama) ally and Murdock, who got his political start as an attorney defending Roy Moore, seemed to fit the bill. However, that analysis is not only much too simplistic, but also fundamentally flawed.

I am told that the BCA is actually backing Murdock at the exclusion of their erstwhile ally Brown. Without BCA support it will be very difficult for Brown to raise enough money to compete against a well-funded Murdock.

But the real question is why the BCA would abandon Brown after being supportive throughout her political career.

One obvious is answer is that Brown's 2004 loss has tainted her as a loser and the BCA doesn't want to suffer the same fate again. But that logic doesn't necessarily hold up under scrutiny. Brown's political career actually stacks up pretty well against Murdock's. In fact Glenn Murdock is actually the only Republican to lose a Supreme Court race to a Democrat since 1996. Though he rebounded from a 1998 loss against Democrat Dugger Johnstone with an easy win for State Appeals Court in 2000, Murdock's political resume is no more sterling than Jean Brown's.

The real reason that the BCA is abandoning Jean Brown is not that she lost in 2004, but how she lost. You'll remember that Brown was bested by Tom Parker in 2004 not just because she voted against the Moore 10 Commandments display but also because she subsequently portrayed herself (dishonestly some might say) as a supporter of the Moore cause. This waffling outraged and energized her opponents and resulted in her narrow defeat in the June primary.

The BCA desperately wants to avoid such intraparty warfare in 2006 and ignoring Brown's candidacy helps keep that recent unpleasantness squarely in the past. And unlike some of his conservative brethren (Roy Moore and Tom Parker), Glenn Murdock has never flirted with trial lawyer interests. So in backing Murdock, the BCA is trying to find common ground with the Moore faction and attempting to prevent any more intraparty divisiveness than is necessary.

One another interesting note on the race to replace Bernard Harwood is that presumptive Democratic nominee John England has also lost a race for State Supreme Court. Which means that all three of the major candidates each lost their most recent race for the state's highest court. Fortunately it looks like one of them will break their losing streak in 2006.

ADP: Movin' On Up

The Alabama Democratic Party recently upgraded it's state party headquarters. The ADP moved from an office in the Bell Building in downtown Montgomery to a nearby one story building. Here's the ADP's blog description of their new digs.
At any rate, this move is great news. Not only are we closer to the state house and capitol, but we have parking, and plenty of room to grow and fill offices with volunteers and staff.
Sounds nice. Also sounds expensive. State party chair Joe Turnham has a reputation as a bit of spendthrift so it's interesting to see the Dems move from the office space they've occupied for over 5 years to a more expensive locale less than 4 months after his assumption as state chair.

I wonder if any of the $700,000 the ADP is getting from the DNC (supposedly to staff up and maintain the voter file) was used to make the move?

Either way it looks like Alabama Dems finally got their piece of the pie.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dems Land Good Recruit, But Will it be Enough?

Friday saw the filing deadline pass for the special election for House District 31. You'll remember that longtime Democratic State Rep Jack Venable passed away recently leaving the seat vacant.

A couple of weeks ago I looked at the local demographics and found a district that will be difficult for Democrats to hold. The district contains parts of two counties, Elmore and Coosa. Elmore county is very strongly Republican, while Coosa is just as reliably Democratic. However, the bad news for Democrats is that roughly 80% of the districts' voters live in Elmore county. In 2002, for example, Bob Riley beat Don Siegelman 61/39 in the 31st.

That paints a pretty bleak picture for Democrats. But this week saw the emergence of a candidate who could conceivably keep the district in the Democratic column. Tallassee mayor Bobby Payne entered the race Friday and became the Democratic nominee as he was the only Democratic to file. Payne has been the mayor of Tallassee since 1988 and his profile as a former Auburn football player and small businessman gives him a good foundation from which to appeal to the rest of the district.

Payne also stands to benefit from a competitive Republican primary. Barry Mask, an Elmore county businessman, and Don Whorton, who serves on the Elmore County Commission, both filed to run in the Republican primary. Though both Mask and Whorton are viable candidates they'll have to get past one another before they can take on Payne in the general. Alabama Republicans have historically been able to stay on the sidelines and watch Democrats beat themselves up in the primary. But in this case the shoe is on the other foot. Payne will be able to focus his time and resources on the Feb. 28 general election while the Republicans will be fighting amongst themselves for the next 6 weeks.

However even though Payne already has his general election ticket punched and can credibly run as as the successor to Jack Venable, he will still have his work cut out for him. Though Tallassee is in Elmore County, it is geographically isolated on the southeast corner of the district. In fact, some of the city of Tallassee is in fact in Tallapoosa county and thus not in the 31st District. To construct a winning formula Payne must stay competitive in the Elmore precincts and rack up big margins in Coosa. This is not impossible, but it would require a strong campaign to convince enough of Elmore county to ignore their usual partisan preferences. Indeed even Venable, a political institution in the district, saw his victory margins shrink in recent elections. In 2002 he carried the district with a relatively low 58% of the vote.

Given the trends in the district, Venable himself might not have even been completely secure, so an open seat special election will be that much more difficult for Democrats to prevail. Which is why I was surprised to see the Alabama Democratic Party set such high expectations for Payne. In a press release they described the race as "extremely difficult for Republicans to win" and said Republicans now face "an uphill battle".

Such language makes nice campaign rhetoric, but what if Republicans actually win the district (as is very possible)? By setting the expectations so high, a Republican victory here would look much more momentous. The special election general will be Feb 28 and will provide the winning party with a late shot of momentum before the April filing deadline that may translate into candidate recruitment or retention. If Democratic incumbents or prospective challengers see their party lose the 31st district (a district the ADP is nearly guaranteeing a win in) perhaps some may chose to forgo a 2006 candidacy in anticipation of a GOP wave.

Ultimately, Bobby Payne is a great recruit for Democrats in the 31st district. He is just the kind of candidate who has been able to hold such Republican leaning districts giving Democrats control of the state legislature. But the Republican trend of Elmore county is unmistakable and Payne would have to draw the political equivalent of straight flush to keep this seat in the Democratic column.

This election will serve as a barometer from which to judge the political environment of the upcoming campaign season. A Payne win or even a narrow loss should give Democrats hope that they can continue to resist the Republican tide, at least at the local level. However, if the GOP candidate easily bests Payne, then Republicans will grow increasingly optimistic and aggressive in their attempt to take over the legislature.

Delbert

Taking a short break from the engrossing world of Alabama politics, I saw the great Delbert McClinton in concert in Atlanta last night. If you're not familiar with Delbert, then you should be. His music is a distinctly American blend of blues, country, and rock. Though he's been on the scene for 40 years (he taught John Lennon how to play the harmonica), he is making his best music yet. Listen to (and buy) some of his stuff here and make sure to check him out if he's near you. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 09, 2005

AlabamaElections Exclusive: Zeb Little NOT running for re-election

I've been told by multiple trusted sources that State Senator Zeb Little (D-Cullman) will not run for re-election.

A couple of days ago I mentioned the speculation surrounding Little's upcoming "new announcement". Since Little is a leader in the State Senate and has harbored statewide ambitions, his announcement could have gone any different number of directions. However, I have enough information at this point to say that I expect him to announce that he will not stand for re-election. I don't know all the details about why he is retiring and at this point I am not going to speculate without knowing the specifics.

Little's retirement will set of a scramble within the state legislature. I expect State Rep Neal Morrison (D-Cullman) to run for the Senate seat and to be the candidate to beat. Republican leaders will probably try to push aside Winston County GOP Chair Harold Sachs, who has been running for the Senate seat for months, in favor of a stronger candidate. Yet whether or not a stronger Republican will emerge or whether the GOP would be able to unify around him is difficult to say at this point.

Assuming Neal Morrison does run for Little's Senate seat, then Morrison's open house seat would be a prime target for the House GOP. Morrison's seat, while certainly competitive, leans GOP on the state and national level and Democrats would need to find a strong candidate in order to hold the seat.

Little's retirement also dramatically alters the leadership calculus in the State Senate. Little is currently the Majority Leader, which is the #2 position in the Senate, and was widely expected to lead the "Barron" wing ,if as expected, Barron doesn't have the votes to remain President pro tem after the 2006 elections. I wouldn't expect Little to resign the Majority Leader's post, but there will definitely be a struggle within the Barron faction to determine who will fill the vacuum left by Little.

I am not sure when Little will announce his retirement (maybe today, maybe next week), but remember when he does that you heard it here first.

Mobile Register Wants Dean Fired

Yesterday, the Mobile Register had a scathing editorial calling for Democrats to fire Howard Dean as DNC chair. Dean's recent comments implying that the U.S. will lose the Iraq War hit a nerve with the Register's editorial board.

Here's a taste of the Register's rage:
It is outrageous for the chairman of one of the nation's two major political parties to declare -- especially against evidence to the contrary -- that Americans cannot win the war they are fighting against a mortal enemy. Such defeatism is anathema.
The Register also takes shots at House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry.

Dean actually talks a pretty good game about the need for the DNC to reach out to "red state" voters and pursue a "50 state strategy" instead of focusing only on Democratic or swing states. But he certainly does a disservice to Democrats (especially those in the South) by presenting the national party as overly pessimistic or political about the war in Iraq.

Republicans, aided by conservative news outlets such as the Register, are in the process of turning Dean's comments into a full fledged media frenzy and will try to force Democrats to either agree with Dean's controversial remarks or publicly criticize their own party chair. Many Democrats have already distanced themselves from Dean and it won't be long before Republicans use the controversy to try to put Bud Cramer and maybe even Artur Davis on the hot seat.

This controversy will blow over before too long and Dean will surely stay as chair, but Alabama Democrats don't need Howard Dean or anybody else making it any harder for them to connect with the average Alabamian.

Sanders Investigation to Continue

The State Ethics Commission decided to prolong its look at allegations that State Sen Hank Sanders (D-Selma) used his position as chair of the Senate's education budget committee to steer state money to non-profit organizations run by his family.

The complaint was brought against Sanders by the perpetually outraged RussandDee, of Birmingham talk radio notoriety. You can read the article and decide for yourself whether Sanders abused his position.

Sanders is about as safe as possible in his district and it would take quite a bombshell to put him in any direct political danger. But if the Ethics Commission does come down hard on him, Senate Republicans might be able to use the issue in the coming elections.

The Ethics Commission will continue to investigate and will meet in February to publicly address the issue again.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Don: Riley <3's PETA!

Don Siegelman came out guns blazing on Bob Riley in a recent fundraising letter. Of course fund raising language almost always includes some hyperbole in order to get supporters mad enough to open their wallets. But the rhetoric of Siegelman's letter is pretty heated even compared to other fundraising appeals. Sallie Owen at the Mobile Register compiles some of Siegelman's most incendiary lines:

"My opponent [Riley] is being supported by liberal anti-gun extremists who want to take away our Second Amendment rights."

"The limits this administration has placed on hunting are extreme,"

"My opponent's[Riley's] friends at (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are trying to end or limit hunting seasons in Alabama and have even tried to ban fishing because the hooks hurt the fish's mouth."

Siegelman is apparently referencing a move by the commissioner of conservation and natural resources (a Riley appointee) to ban deer hunting with dogs in several Alabama counties. But as a department flack pointed out, the same practice occurred during Siegelman's term and has only been continued through the Riley administration.

Siegelman was a gun-friendly governor so it's not unreasonable that he'd again seek the "sportsmen" vote. But Riley has been a pro-gun governor as well and has nothing to gain by moving to the left (or even the center) on the issue.

This is the second issue (tax appraisals being the first) where Siegelman has attempted to cast Riley as a liberal. Siegelman has a long way to go before he gets Riley one-on-one so the immediate beneficiary is Roy Moore. In fact, don't be surprised if Moore picks up on this gun issue Siegelman has raised to try to drive a wedge between Bob Riley and a critical block of GOP primary voters.

One Photo, One Vote? No Photo, No Vote?

Ed Packard, the elections specialist at the Secretary of State's office, has a great piece at his blog in which he delves into the issue of photo Voter ID. Ed gives a great deal of information on the background of the issue and presents both sides of the argument in a fair and straightforward manner. He believes proponents and opponents of photo VOTER ID share some fundamental concerns and if they sought a middle ground then perhaps a consensus might emerge.

It really is an informative read and a great primer on an often contentious issue in Alabama politics.

The politics of VOTER ID have dogged Democrats for nearly a decade. The idea of being required to present some sort of ID before an individual is able to vote strikes a significant majority of Alabamians as a common-sense proposal. However, Alabama has a history of preventing some segments of its society from voting, so proposals such as this make some in the state (mainly black voters) a little nervous. So Democrats were faced with a choice of opposing Voter ID and being on the opposite side of the issue from most Alabamians or supporting Voter ID and alienating a core constituency while possibly opening up the door to allegations of voter intimidation.

In 2003 the legislature passed a compromise Voter ID bill requiring a voter to present any of 26 types of identification, many of which don't include a photograph. But the issue of Voter ID has now re-emerged -- this time with an emphasis on photo identification.

And while photo Voter ID is unlikely to be an overriding issue in many races, Beth Chapman, the presumptive Republican nominee for Secretary of State, looks likely to base her campaign largely on her support of a photo Voter ID bill. And look for the issue to make an appearance in legislative elections around the state and maybe even on the Christian Coalition's voter guides.

So read Ed's piece on Voter ID and familiarize yourself with the issues because Voter ID seems likely to continue, in some form or another, as a political football in Alabama politics well into the future.

Mo Says "See Ya" to Illegal Immigrants

Looking to jumpstart his underdog candidacy for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor, Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks proposed the Stop Employment of Illegal Aliens Act (or as Brooks calls it the "See Ya" act). The proposal would have blocked the employment of illegal aliens in Madison County,but the county commission rejected the proposal on a 4-3 party line vote. The Brooks' campaign is struggling in the shadow of George Wallace Jr's name and Luther Strange's money and is looking to make up some ground using the hot button illegal immigration issue.

I've talked before about how illegal immigration has become the national conservative issue du jour and it looks to have a role to play in the GOP governor's race too, as Roy Moore is using it as a key plank of his campaign platform.

This is probably a smart play by Brooks and he might be able to endear himself to activists and raise his name recognition while getting to the right of both Wallace and Strange on the issue. But Brooks just has too much ground to make up in the LG race to make a real play for the nomination, but if he is able to gain some momentum from the issue then look for other campaigns to highlight the issue throughout the primary season.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tom Parker Looks Like a Candidate

A couple of enterprising individuals tipped me off to the fact that the website "parkerforchiefjustice.com" has recently been reserved.

At first glance this would seem to confirm speculation that Tom Parker intends to take on Chief Justice Drayton Nabers in the June GOP primary. However, occasionally campaigns will buy the potential web addresses of their opponents to frustrate the rival campaigns. So it is possible that the domain name was bought by a Nabers ally or a Parker rival to use for nefarious purposes.

But more than likely this is yet another sign that the Republican Chief Justice primary will see a pitched ideological showdown. Parker has been very critical of Nabers throughout the last several months and all signs are pointing to a Parker candidacy.

When all is said and done, I expect a Nabers/Parker race to be even more nasty and divisive than the Riley/Moore faceoff.

What's Zeb Up To?

I've been told that State Senator Zeb Little (D-Cullman) has a "new announcement" planned this week in which he will lay out his future plans.

You'll remember that Little took a long look at running statewide (LG and AG) only to forgo such a bid in favor of re-election to his senate seat. However, now that Jim Folsom has still not publicly stated his plans regarding the Lieutenant Governor's race perhaps Little is giving a statewide bid a second thought.

The details of Little's "new announcement" have been hard to come by as he seems to be playing it close to the vest. It could be anything from announcing his retirement, to making a move for the President Pro Tem job, or moving on to another office.

Many times announcements such as this end up being much ado about nothing, but Little's announcement has the potential to shake up the Alabama political scene.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Technical Difficulties

I was emailed by several people yesterday complaining of various technical difficulties.

From what I can piece together the entire Blogger network (of which my site is a member) was down for a few hours yesterday evening. So my site was only one of many affected and everything looks to be back online.

However, I've also been told that a significant amount of blank space has appeared between the top of the blog and the most recent post. I don't know why that is and I've contacted Blogger to try to resolve it. When I bring up the page on my own computer everything looks normal, but many people (maybe everyone but me) have to scroll down through blank space to read the newest posts. Hopefully, that will be corrected shortly.

I'd also like to thank the readers of my blog for, well, reading my blog. Site traffic continues to grow and AlabamaElections routinely has over 200 hits on an average weekday.

While a blog focusing on the daily machinations of Alabama politics appeals to a limited audience, AlabamaElections is quickly becoming a place where politically interested, internet savvy individuals (from Montgomery insiders to outside observers) come for a daily dose of Alabama politics.

Thanks for reading.

Flowers' Flub

I like Steve Flowers' columns. I've even complimented him here on my blog and encouraged people to visit his site and read his weekly columns. I've especially enjoyed his recent series giving the history of each Alabama governor's race from 1958 to the present.

However, his most recent column (Nov. 30) has left a sour taste in my mouth.

In it he gives an interesting recap of the 1998 governor's race, but unfortunately he makes this statement:
"Siegelman won the 1998 Governor’s race and became one of only two Democratic Governors in the South. "
That is not accurate and I emailed Flowers to let him know. I reminded him that at the time of his inauguration (Jan 1999), Siegelman was actually one of 5 Democratic governors in the South. Siegelman joined Roy Barnes(GA), Jim Hodges(SC), Jim Hunt (NC) and Paul Patton (KY) as Southern Democratic Governors.

Flowers was nice enough to email me back but maintained that he said that Siegelman was one of two Southern Democratic governor's elected that year (1998). And while I think interpreted his statement ("Siegelman won the 1998 Governor’s race and became one of only two Democratic Governors in the South.") correctly the first time, he is still incorrect even under his own (re)interpretation.

There were 6 gubernatorial elections in the South in 1998. The two parties split them evenly with the GOP taking FL, TX, and AR and the Dems winning in AL, GA, and SC. So obviously Siegelman was one of three Democratic governors elected in 1998 and actually 1998 was the best year for Southern Democrats in a long time.

Flowers has a weekly circulation of 335,000 and boasts of writing "Alabama's leading political column". I'm sure there are many Alabamians who get there political news predominantly (or even solely) from Flowers' columns. I think they'd appreciate him correcting the record.

I'll keep reading his colums either way, but I hope he does the right thing.

Black and Red All Over

Reading about the recent meeting of Alabama's black Republican caucus, I began to wonder if there are any elected black Republicans in the state.

The article mentions Johnny Ford who switched parties and was promptly elected mayor of Tuskegee. But Ford has never actually been on the ballot a Republican. He switched to the GOP only after his 2002 re-election and mayoral elections are conducted on a nonpartisan basis.

The article mentions Juan Chastang as well, but he of course was recently appointed to the Mobile County Commission and given the fallout from his selection I don't think many would feel confident about his chances of being elected to a full term.

So on that note I tried to figure out if there are any black Alabamians elected as Republicans at any level of government. This would include not only statewide races, but also all 140 legislative seats, circuit and judicial judgeships, county commission seats, circuit clerks, probate judge and any other partisan position in the state.

I've checked with friends on both side of the aisle and nobody can seem to point be to a black Alabamian elected as a Republican. I've got a call in to the AL GOP so we'll see if they get back to me.

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