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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Who's in the Money?

Today marks the deadline for campaign finance filings for candidates running in the 2006 elections. Partisans and observers alike will be scanning the reports looking to see which met or surpassed expectations and which are already falling behind.

Some candidates have their reports in early and others will no doubt wait until the last minute. Below are a few of the questions, I'll be trying to answer tomorrow.

Just how big is Riley's money advantage over Roy Moore? 2 to 1? 5 to 1? 10 to 1?

Just how bad is Siegelman's fundraising? Will Baxley raise enough money to bury him no matter what happens in the trial?

Will Luther Strange's warchest force a re-evaluation of the GOP LG primary?

How do King and Tyson's coffers compare?

Will any of the GOP State Auditor candidates use the filing to emerge as the frontrunner?

Any surprises on the Court races?

How are the competitive legislative races stacking up?

Those are just a sampling of the questions that we should be a little closer to answering this time tomorrow. Feel free to do your own sleuthing on the Sec of State site and let us know what you find out.

Battle Brewing in Lauderdale

If not for some fractious local political wrangling, Lynn Greer might have run for State House as a Democrat in 2002. Instead Greer succeeded "Goat" Hamilton and became the first Republican elected to the legislature from Lauderdale county. Understandably state and local Democrats have been eyeing Greer's seat ever since.

Retired lobbyist and Democrat Connie Walden has been in the race for months, but some local Dems have been shopping for an alternative. And after a false start or two, they may have found their candidate.

Three term county commissioner Mike Curtis is weighing the race and some Lauderdale Dems think he's their best shot to oust Greer. Curtis has interest in the race but is still weighing personal considerations against his political goals. Still many state and local Democrats are trying to recruit Curtis into the race and the AEA's polling arm has even conducted a Curtis/Greer matchup (I'm told the poll showed a "dead heat" which would bode well for the challenger).

However, even if Curtis does enter the race he will face a tough fight against against Lynn Greer. Greer has been a political fixture locally as he served on the PSC and even made a run for Congress before his latest stint as a Republican State Rep. Greer's well honed retail political skills will no doubt be accompanied by staunch support from the AL GOP and its allies.

A Curtis/Greer matchup would be one of the premier State House races of the cycle and would give House Dems a chance to offset potential losses elsewhere. Ultimately such a race could be as close and important as any State House race in Alabama.

Sessions Slaps Kerry...and McCain?

The Hotline's blog made an interesting find a few days ago, as they caught Alabama's own Jeff Sessions taking shots at his fellow Republican senators, whether he knew it or not.

Several US senators attended the World Economic Forum, held regularly in Davos, Switzerland. Democrat John Kerry attended the conference and came back increasingly critical of the Bush administration's energy efforts and urged new directions for US energy policy.

On the floor of the Senate Sessions called for the senators who attended the forum to "spend more time trying to get the oil prices and gasoline prices down."

However, John Kerry was not the only US Senator to make the trip to Davos. The Senate delegation also included John Sununu (R-NH), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and John McCain (R-AZ).

Whether or not Sessions knew he was including his co-partisans in the jab is up for interpretation.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Riley Fires First Shot in Ad War

Bob Riley recently became the first candidate of the 2006 cycle to run a television ad. Cut from footage of his recent "State of the State" speech, the ad centers around Riley's new tax cut package.

It's a fine ad, but it doesn't have the polished look (for better or worse) of most TV ads. That is probably due it being filmed live at the State House rather than in a studio somewhere.

It is telling that the Riley team would focus on tax cuts right out of the gate. They are obviously concerned that memories of the failed Amendment One tax package could haunt the governor's re-election and are trying to inoculate their candidate against future charges of tax hikes. The ad's focus makes sense, but it also highlights the tax issue as one on which the governor is particularly vulnerable.

The TV ad started running January 25th but I don't think the length or cost of the run is public knowledge. You can watch the ad at Riley's campaign site. The site also hosts a radio ad ("New Direction"), but I couldn't get it to work

Guest Blog by Siegelman Aide Chip Hill

(This is a guest blog written by "Siegelman 2006" Communications Director Chip Hill. The views expressed are those of Hill and not necessarily those of the publisher of AlabamaElections. Hill's contact information is available at Siegelman 2006.)

Bill Canary is the husband of the US Attorney, Leura Canary. His bio is available online and while I won't list it in detail, you will see that he has been a GOP operative at the highest levels since the late 80's, a key Lieutenant to Karl Rove in Alabama court races in the 90's, former Chief of Staff to the Republican National Committee, and National Field Director for the Bush/Quayle Campaign.

The following citations are interesting:

"William Canary later joined the Riley campaign and now serves as BCA president."
[Southern trilogy: how Republicans captured governorships in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama - Case Studies
Campaigns & Elections, June, 2003 by David Beile]

"Canary prides himself on being a well-connected Republican strategist. He has no patience with Democrats at any level. He is wired into Riley’s policy-making, and as it stands now, he likely will be a cheerleader for Riley to seek a second term." [Business Alabama, Ford, Apr. 2004]

"BCA President Bill Canary, who sees himself as a Riley adviser, is not likely to allow the BCA to abandon Riley if he wants a second term" [Business Alabama, Ford, August 2004]

"Bill Canary is a political paratrooper." said former RNC Chairman Rich Bond. "If you've got a problem that needs fixing, you drop him in and it get's fixed." [TIME, Cramer, 3/27/95]

Federal Election Disclosure forms and filings in the Secretary of State's office show that Bill Canary received 40,000 from Bill Pryor to be his political consultant in 98. Almost immediately after taking office Pryor began investigating Siegelman. In 01 Canary received 38,000 from Steve Windom to be his consultant in the 02 Governor's race. Windom ran exclusively on calling for investigation of Siegelman. After her failed run for the Court of Criminal Appeals, Alice Martin received multiple payments from Bill Canary's Capitol Group PAC. Martin then became US Attorney, Northern District in 01 and later indicted Siegelman. And we know that Leura Canary worked for Pryor from 99-01, became US Attorney in 01 and later indicted Siegelman.

Other interesting research has come to light.

Department Of Justice rules of conduct outline the specific steps a US Attorney must take regarding any possible conflict of interest. The recusal must be done immediately after conflict is discovered.

We know that US Attorney Leura Canary only submitted recusal paperwork after Siegelman Attorney David Cromwell Johnson's press conference in March of 02. Then two months after the press conference she "voluntarily recused herself."

The questions are: If these possible conflicts existed two months after she was outed, did they not exist at the outset of her office's investigation? And, did her recusal paperwork accurately reflect all of the conflicts (i.e. Pryor's payment to her husband, Windom's payment to her husband, Her husband's payments to Alice Martin). In other words, did she admit that her husband was financially tied to everyone who had investigated, called for investigations, or indicted Don Siegelman?

Any conflict she reported after Johnson's press conference was already in existence at the outset which, under doj rules, required her to recuse herself up front, which we know she did not.

Also, is it not a valid question to ask if the GJ would have interpreted the testimony and evidence differently had they been made aware of the fact that the US Attorney's husband was financially linked to everyone who had furthered the investigation of Don Siegelman?

Does the fact that the GJ was not made aware of these conflicts not bring into question the validity of the indictments?

Sure Louis Franklin's name is on the indictment, but for them to continually use her "recusal" to excuse all this, is like saying that a newspaper editor has nothing to do with a story because his name is not on the byline. It's asinine.

New Shelby, Sessions Approval Numbers

The January approval ratings for all 100 US senators have been released. And once again Alabama's pair are in pretty good shape.

Shelby: 60% approval/29% disapproval
Sessions: 58% approval/30 % disapproval


These results show stable ratings for both Republicans. Though both Sessions and Shelby can boast of strong public approval, neither is among the highest echelon, in terms of popularity, of the 100 member Senate.

Currently Shelby rates as the 27th most popular senator, while Sessions ranks in at 35.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Weekend Winners and Losers - 01/28

Winners

Larry Dixon - The GOP State Senator saw his his road to re-election smooth out as potential primary foe Barry Mask won the GOP nomination for a State House special election. Whether Mask wins or loses the Feb 28 special, he's expected to vie for the State House seat in November which removes him as Dixon's strongest primary foe.

Ken Guin - The State House Majority Leader saw his Bible Literacy Bill approved by the House Education Committee, albeit on a party line vote.

Harri Anne Smith - Senate Republicans lone female member aborted her prospective gubernatorial bid and endorsed the frontrunning incumbent. Smith's flirtation with a run gained her exposure and fundraising contacts without an embarrassing statewide loss.

Losers

George Callahan - The ex State Senator's comeback bid got significantly more difficult this week as fellow Republican and Mobile city councilman Ben Brooks announced his candidacy for the Mobile-based District 35. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democratic incumbent Gary Tanner.

Stacy Lee George - The Morgan County Commissioner and GOP candidate for PSC was rebuked by his local party for "boorish" and unacceptable behavior. George had publicly criticized the fellow Republican sheriff and county commissioners.

Luther Strange for Attorney General - The movement to urge the Birmingham attorney to challenge incumbent Troy King in the GOP primary took a hit this week, as Strange officially filed for the Lieutenant Governor's race.

Friday, January 27, 2006

PAC Gives $300K to Riley, After Getting $50 Million State Contract

Eddie Curran at the Mobile Register has a revelatory piece about Bob Riley's re-election fundraising. According to filings with the Sec of State, a PAC called Alabamians for Technology donated $300,000 in December to Riley's re-election campaign.

There doesn't seem to be any speculation that anything illegal took place, but there sure are a lot of unseemly details.

-- The PAC was formed, and largely bankrolled, by executives who benefited from a $50 million state contract.

-- The PAC was formed on Dec 16, 2005 and just three days later gave the $300K to Riley.

-- The PAC had taken $325K which means the $300K given to Riley accounts for over 92% of the PAC's monies.

I don't know if we'll hear any more about this over the coming weeks, but it seems like this could, at the very least, raise questions about Riley's fundraising practices. And with a former governor under indictment, some citizens might not see much of a difference in the current administration and its predecessor. Read the piece for yourself and see if I am missing something,but this is not likely to encourage trust and faith in our political system.

This story reminds me of a quote I've seen attributed to Michael Kinsley, "The real scandal is not what is illegal, but what is legal".

Dem Emerges to Take on Ivey

Keith Douglas Williams of Mobile has become the first Democrat to announce his intentions to run against Repubican incumbent Kay Ivey for State Treasurer. I know very little about Williams, but he did make me aware of his press release making his intentions known.

Ivey is certainly a heavy favorite for re-election, but an energetic campaign could force the incumbent to actually break a sweat on her way to a second term.

M(oore)TV

An alert reader notified me of a video section on Roy Moore's campaign site. The site plays host to two videos hyping a Moore candidacy.

You can watch "10 Commandments on Trial" and "All About Judge Moore" from the Moore home page. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Smith To Pull Plug on Gov Campaign; Will Back Riley

Harri Anne Smith and Bob Riley will hold a press conference today. Smith will abandon her potential bid for governor and instead endorse Bob Riley for re-election. Smith is not leaving the political scene altogether though as she will run for re-election to her State Senate seat.

Smith seemed to want to run, but could never really find a rationale for her candidacy. Not to mention that it would have taken a minor miracle for her to be anything other than an afterthought in the gov race. But her flirtation with the governor's race has improved her name recognition and probably given her contacts throughout the state she wouldn't otherwise have. I'll be surprised if she doesn't pull the trigger on a run for higher office at some point in the next cycle or two.

This will be seen as a boost for Riley as Smith probably would have drawn more from the incumbent than challenger Roy Moore. Also, assuming the GOP field solidifies as a two man race, a runoff would be out of the picture. However, from Moore's point of view, he now has a monopoly on the anti-Riley vote. Of course the Riley camp can now say the same thing about the anti-Moore vote.

Ultimately, this has long been a two man race and a Smith candidacy was unlikely to change the fundamental dynamics at play. With Smith on the sidelines, Bob Riley and Roy Moore can now duke it out man to man sooner rather than later.

Baxley Kickoff Video

Yesterday I mentioned a video of Libertarian candidate Loretta Nall articulating her campaign message. In that same vein, I thought I'd link to a video of Lucy Baxley's Jan 4 campaign kickoff.

You can watch the video of the speech or just read the text.

And I'll keep an eye out for videos of other candidates to keep things even. And let me know if there are video clips of other Alabama politicians floating around the net.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Amari Ponders PSC Race

I've been told that ex State Sen John Amari (R-Trussville) is close to jumping into the Republican primary for the open PSC seat being vacated by George Wallace Jr.

Amari was elected to the State House as a Democrat in 1978 and served in the State Senate from 1982-1998 (changing parties before the 1990 election). Amari was narrowly defeated by Steve Windom in the GOP 1998 primary for Lieutenant Governor. His 2002 comeback bid failed as he lost to State Sen Steve French in the GOP primary for Senate District 15.

If Amari runs he would face Perry Hooper Jr., who was ousted from the state legislature in 2002, in the GOP primary. An Amari/Hooper primary would be interesting as they are both trying to revive political careers recently gone off track. While Hooper Jr. has higher statewide name recognition (thanks mostly to his father), Amari's JeffCo base is bigger and he has run statewide before. Both Hooper and Amari have stayed politically active since their defeats, but a primary pitting the two would probably end the loser's political career.

However, even the winner of this hypothetical primary is not guaranteed a seat on the PSC. Democrat Susan Parker should be a strong candidate as well. Throw in the only other announced candidate, Democrat Debbie Murphree (who's lost county races in Autauga), and each candidate running for this PSC seat has lost his or her most recent race(s).

Fortunately at least one of them will see their electoral slumps reversed in 2006.

Nall Speech Online

Libertarian candidate Loretta Nall spoke at a VFW hall in Wetumpka earlier in the week. Her speech is available in a clip from her site, as well as in transcript form. Nall is running as a Libertarian and has gotten a lot of attention regarding her marijuana legalization efforts. But she has other parts of her platform, although some are not much more conventional than the aforementioned drug stance.

As it stands now, Nall is the only candidate running for governor who is not affiliated with the Republicans or Democrats. Check out her speech if you're interested in learning more about the candidates or if you're looking for someone outside of the two-party system.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mask Whips Whorton

The votes have been counted and Barry Mask is the Republican nominee for the special election in State House District 31. Mask won with over 70% of the vote, collecting 3138 votes to opponent Don Whorton's 1265.

Whorton's baggage from two controversial terms on the Elmore County Commission was obviously just too heavy a burden to carry. Mask was unencumbered by such negative experience and was able to present himself as a fresh face to primary voters. Mask also was able to use his connections throughout the state to outraise Whorton by about a 3 to 1 ratio. Mask was financially supported by GOP House Leader Mike Hubbard and State Rep Cam Ward, as well as by several Montgomery based PACs. (Here's a link to the latest financial filings of both Mask and Whorton).

Mask will face Democrat and longtime Tallassee Mayor Bobby Payne in the Feb 28 general election. Payne has an appealing profile and has demonstrated a proven ability to win local elections. But HD 31 is a strongly Republican district and Payne will have to fight these underlying demographics to keep the district in Democratic hands.

Payne can expect support from legislative Democrats who are eager to prove that Dems can still win in areas like HD 31. Though Payne should not suffer from a lack of funds, Mask has already demonstrated his fundraising prowess. In addition to his connections through lobbying, Mask will also be the beneficiary of Republican money from throughout the state.

Even though the winner of the Feb 28 special election will have to immediately turn around and prepare for the November elections, the power of incumbency should give a boost to the special election winner.

The Feb 28 special should be a close race and both parties recognize the practical and symbolic importance of victory. This special election will be the opening salvo in the 2006 battle for control of the legislature.

HD 31: Mask/Whorton GOP Primary Preview

Today voters in State House District 31 (parts of Elmore and Coosa counties) will go to the polls to select a Republican nominee to face Democrat Bobby Payne in the Feb 28 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the November death of longtime State Rep Jack Venable (D-Tallassee). The winner of the general election will provide the victorious party with early momentum in the battle for control of the legislature.

But before we can focus on the general election, a GOP nominee must emerge from today's primary. I discussed the race earlier in the process (focusing on the district, the candidates, and a private poll) and yesterday the Montgomery Advertiser had a final wrap up before the vote. Also if you're interested in policy, check out each candidates' guest piece in the Advertiser (including Democrat Payne) as well as the Wetumpka Herald's moderation of a quasi debate between the two Republicans.

There is little doubt that Elmore County Commissioner Don Whorton began the race as the frontrunner against economic development consultant Barry Mask. Whorton's two terms on the county commission gave him name recognition and political experience that Mask could not match. However, Whorton's tenure on the commission is not an unvarnished positive as he was forced to take controversial stands and developed more than a few detractors.

However, the short special election campaign (made even shorter by Christmas and New Years) left Mask's work cut out for him. Mask does seem to be well thought of with plenty of connections, both locally and in Montgomery, but raising his name ID to a sufficient level to win an election (70% or so) in such a short period is a difficult task.

The campaign has not been altogether uplifting either. Both candidates have run television advertising and conducted direct mailing. And Mask has accused the Whorton camp of "push polling", a political tactic akin to smearing your opponent under the guise of a traditional telephone poll. In this case Mask has taken umbrage that Whorton (or his allies) would label Mask a lobbyist.

This should be a relatively close race as Mask has no doubt closed the wide gap that existed when the race began. However, I don't believe Mask has accrued the financial edge many observers expected due to his close ties to some in Montgomery. I've been told that Whorton has been competitive with (if not actually ahead of) Mask in terms of television ad buys (the lifeblood of a campaign). I am skeptical that Mask has had enough time or money to sufficiently spread his name and message to the point where he can overtake Whorton, even considering Whorton's not inconsiderable weaknesses.

Special elections are incredibly volatile as voter turnout is usually abysmal. If one candidate can turn out their supporters at a slightly higher clip than their opponent, then that can make all the difference. Yet even though special elections are notoriously difficult to predict, as this is an elections site I feel obligated to weigh in.

I believe that if this had been a more traditional campaign then Mask might well have won, but given the unusual circumstances of this campaign, I don't think Mask had the time or means to make up the significant head start Whorton developed over several years in Elmore county politics.

Prediction -
Don Whorton -- 55%
Barry Mask -- 45%

Results should come in the late evening and I'll post them as soon as I can find them.

Bipartisan Bud

The Montgomery Advertiser referenced a recent study showing that the two Democratic members of Alabama's Congressional Delegation are more likely to vote with Republicans than most Democrats elsewhere.

According to the study by Congressional Quarterly, Bud Cramer (D-Huntsville) voted with the Republicans on 40% of congressional votes, making him the 2nd most bipartisan member of the 202 member Democratic caucus. Indeed, both Alabama Democrats are more bipartisan than most of their other fellow Democrats. The average Democrat votes with the GOP only 9% of the time, while Artur Davis (D-Birmingham) sides with the GOP 17% of the time.

The Advertiser for one reason or another didn't discuss similar scores for Republicans, but I'll try to dig those up. While it's not a surprise that Alabama Democrats aren't in unison with national Democrats, it is interesting to see numbers testing the conventional wisdom.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Playboy Touts Artur Davis

Artur Davis recently received a distinction from an unlikely source.

According to the Birmingham News, Playboy magazine recently named Davis as one of 10 members of the "No B.S. club". Pundit Jeff Greenfield identified 10 lawmakers whom he considers independent, straight talkers. Greenfield added Davis to the list due to his blunt talk and his moderate brand of politics.

Other members of the list include Sen John McCain (R-AZ), Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep Mike Pence (R-IN), and Rep Barney Frank (D-MA).

Siegelman Verdict To Come Before Primary

US District Judge Mark Fuller recommended a May 1 starting date for the trial of Don Siegelman and other co-defendants. The expectation seems to be that if the trial were to begin on that date then the verdict should come before the June 6 primary.

This would afford Siegelman a last minute primary push if he's found "not guilty" of the charges and also prevent Democrats from nominating Siegelman just to have him convicted after the primary election. So while Republicans would surely like to see the Siegelman spectacle drawn out for as long as possible, Democrats should be glad the trial will be in the rearview mirror come June 6.

Last week also saw the release of grand jury testimony in which Siegelman's former executive secretary, Nick Bailey, testified that Siegelman received $500K from Richard Scrushy in order to place the latter on a contract review board. That allegation is likely to be a center piece of the government's case against the two men.

"West Wing" a Lame Duck

NBC announced Sunday that the long running program "The West Wing" will be cancelled after the conclusion of it's current season.

The 7th season has received critical praise, but it's move from Wednesday to Sunday was followed by lackluster ratings. The cancellation of "West Wing" is part of a larger strategy by NBC to revive their lagging lineup. Some conservatives will be happy to see the show go as it was long accused of sporting a liberal bias. I wasn't a regular viewer, but the show (which focused on a Democratic administration) seemed reasonably fair to Republicans.

The show's final episodes will focus on the presidential race to replace outgoing president Martin Sheen. Since the writers of the show no longer have to worry about continuing the series with a new lead, perhaps the presidential race pitting Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) vs Republican Arnie Vinick (R-Alan Alda) will see more fireworks than previously planned.

Though I wasn't an avid watcher of "The West Wing", as a person who enjoys politics I'm sad to see the show go.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New Poll Numbers for Riley, Bush

Survey USA recently came out with it's January tracking poll numbers. They've been tracking Bob Riley's approval ratings from month to month.

Riley's approval numbers are as follows:

Approve: 52%
Disapprove: 40%


These numbers are nearly identical to last month's (52/41) and show Riley with a consistent, but certainly not overwhelming net positive rating. In fact since Survey USA polls all 50 governors, we can tell that Riley ranks almost directly in the middle compared to his colleagues. According to Survey USA, Bob Riley is the 28th most popular governor in America.
Riley's public standing places him in a political limbo. 5-10 points higher and he'd be a near lock for a second term, but 5-10 points lower and his staff better start lining up other jobs. Assuming his popularity hovers right around 50%, the twists and turns of the gubernatorial campaign will determine if he's re-elected or not.

Survey USA also released it's monthly look at George W. Bush's popularity in all 50 states. This month saw Bush's approval in Alabama take a pretty steep drop. While Bush's December ratings were a respectable 54/43, this month's numbers are a paltry 50/47. So Bush's net approval ratings in Alabama took a net 8 point hit.

Alabama tied with Mississippi as Bush's 10th "best" state as nationally the poll shows Bush with 43% approval and 54% disapproval.

Weekend Winners and Losers - 01/21

Winner
Loretta Nall - With the Nathan Mathis campaign moving from independent to Democratic, Libertarian Nall is currently the only announced gubernatorial candidate not aligned with either major party.

Loser
Larry Darby - The atheist activist and longshot Attorney General candidate made his presence felt at the State House this week. According to the bill's sponsor, Darby's advocacy against the bill actually encouraged some memberts to vote for amending the hate crimes law.

Friday, January 20, 2006

GOP Threatens "Hate Crimes" Lockdown

The State House Judiciary committee backed Rep. Alvin Holmes' bill to add "sexual orientation" to the state "hate crimes" law originally passed in 1994. The bill passed the Judiciary committee on a voice vote "largely along party lines".

However, the House GOP is throwing down the gauntlet on the issue. Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) appears to be leading the charge and has threatened to "lock the House down" if the bill comes to the floor. The GOP appears ready to exploit their newly found numerical advantage if necessary. With the deaths of two Democratic representatives, the Democratic majority has gone from 63-41 to 61-41. Those two vacancies render House Democrats short of the necessary 3/5 majority necessary to stop debate (assuming the GOP votes in a block). And with ailing Rep. Lucius Black (D-York) unable to attend the session, there are actually only a maximum 60 Democratic votes available at any given time.

And it is this parliamentary maneuver that Republicans are threatening to employ if the Holmes' bill makes it to the floor. So, don't hold your breath in expectation of seeing an up or down vote on this bill. But if Democratic leaders decide to push the issue, then there will definitely be some fireworks.

I don't really understand either party's strategy on this issue though. Democrats had been distancing themselves as much as possible from any hint of social liberalism. And while adding sexual orientation is not an especially radical notion, it does give Republicans some chance to brand Alabama Democrats with the dreaded "L" word. No, not that one -- the other one.

And I'd think the AL GOP would jump at a chance to put House Democrats on record for or against this bill. It's no secret that the Republican road to a House majority runs through conservative Democratic districts. Wouldn't this be a good opportunity to put such members on the defensive? Republicans are almost letting the Democrats off the hook by preventing a vote.

I am especially curious about the Republican strategy because it is coming directly from their leadership, while the bill passing committee may or may not have had the blessing of Hammett and Guin. At the very least I doubt that the bill was originally backed by the Democratic leadership, but instead forced upon them by an insistent caucus.

And the situations are too different to be fairly compared, but in some ways State House Republicans are threatening to engage in the same "obstructionist" tactics over which US Senate Republicans berate Senate Dems. How long can it be until Seth Hammett compares Mike Hubbard to Tom Daschle?

But maybe I am missing some brilliant strategic gambit by one or both of the parties. Either way, it'll be interesting to see if Democrats force a showdown on the bill and if so just how far Republicans are willing to take their hardball.

Colbert Tackles Blogs

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Colbert Report, but it's a satire of O'Reilly/Situation Room/Crossfire type talking head news shows. Colbert recently had a pretty interesting interview with Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan is an unorthodox conservative commentator and was one of the leading pioneers of the blog world. If you're interested in the emergence of political blogs in public discourse you might find this interview interesting.

Also wouldn't it be fun to see Colbert grill a member of the Alabama House delegation in his "Better Know a District" efforts?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Nathan Mathis Running For Gov as a Democrat

I am not sure if it's been reported by the traditional press, but I've gotten word that Nathan Mathis is going to run for governor as a Democrat. You'll remember that Mathis declared his candidacy several months ago, but indicated that he'd run as an independent.

However yesterday in an address at the State House Mathis changed course and announced his candidacy as a Democrat. Mathis' campaign platform largely centers around advocacy of legalized gambling. His website (which still has him as an independent) lays out his arguments in favor of state regulated casinos.

Mathis has served in the state legislature and lost in the Democratic primary for Ag Commissioner in 2002. His independent bid, while posing little threat to actually win, probably would taken votes away from the Democratic nominee. He certainly starts off as a longshot against both Baxley and Siegelman, but with the Dem primary so fluid it's tough to know what to expect.

Mathis will surely be an underdog in the Democratic primary, but his (re)declaration as a Democrat does open the door for a possible Democratic gubernatorial runoff. A Dem runoff would certainly leave Democrats grimacing and Republicans grinning.

GOP Pledge Online

The Alabama GOP has an online copy of the leadership pledge/loyalty oath that has roiled Alabama politics for the past couple of weeks.

The AL GOP actually calls it the "Republican Caucus Pledge" and Chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh gives a brief explanation (defense?) of the pledge.

But I'll just copy and paste the pledge verbatim below:

I, _________________________, pledge to the Republican voters of Senate/House District ___ (number) of the Legislature of the State of Alabama and to all Republican voters of this state that I will vote for the Republican Caucus choices for the leadership positions of the legislative body to which I seek to be elected. I further pledge to these voters that I will vote for the Republican Caucus choices for the operating rules of the legislative body to which I seek to be elected. This pledge shall remain in force and effect during the entire term to which I seek to be elected.
There is speculation that this pledge was created for and is aimed at a handful of current GOP legislators who are on good terms with House Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia). But given how this pledge has little actual enforcement potential, it's possible the negative reaction the pledge has garnered in some quarters will outweigh any future practical benefit.

But I'm glad the GOP has made the pledge available online. Give it a look and decide for yourself whether it's appropriate and/or necessary.

Delay's Bama Money Laundering

A potentially big story has come to light over the past couple of days concerning potential illicit fundraising practices in Alabama by Tom Delay.

Delay allegedly started an Alabama-based PAC (ARMPAC) solely to take advantage of our state's lax campaign finance regulations. Delay raised money in Alabama and then sent that money to a Texas based Delay PAC (TRMPAC) to help Republican candidates in the Lone Star state. ARMPAC also gave $11,000 to Bob Riley's 2002 gubernatorial campaign, but there have been no allegations leveled against Riley as of yet. For his part, Riley says he does not intend to return any of the $11,000 from ARMPAC.

State Rep Randy Hinshaw (D-Meridianville) has been leading the charge against such dishonest fundraising and has called on the AG's office to investigate the matter. True to from, Troy King does not seem eager to engage this issue and seems to be hoping the issue will just go away. I don't expect Hinshaw to let that happen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Landmark Party Switch

The lone Democrat on the Morgan County Commission switched to the GOP yesterday. The switch renders the body, which was unanimously Democratic prior to the 2000 elections, under complete Republican control.

However, commissioner Jeff Clark's switch seems to have been a long time in the making and looks to have more to do with his own deteriorating political situation than any principled decision making. Apparently scandals involving nepotism and/or favoritism have been swirling around Clark and his political conversion seems to be a "Hail Mary" effort to revive his political career.

However even if this specific instance isn't especially significant, the larger trend is ominous for Alabama Democrats. The example of the once Democrat dominated Morgan County Commission now controlled exclusively by the GOP is a microcosm of the Democratic decline of the past 10-15 years But it is not quite that simple as the pre-2000 Democratic strength of Morgan county is probably overestimated. In reality Morgan county is slightly more Republican than the state as a whole.

Incidentally Morgan county will play host to one of the marquee State Senate races. Longtime Morgan county Probate Judge Democrat Bobby Day will try to hold on to retiring State Sen Tommy Ed Roberts' (D - Hartselle) seat while Republican Arthur Orr attempts to wrestle it away.

Democrats need to start reversing the trends that have developed in places like Morgan county and 2006 will give them a fighting chance to do so.

New Kid on the Block

My friend JM has started a new blog, Alabama Pundit, dedicated to viewing state and national politics through a conservative prism.

The blog is new but looks to have some interesting content so far. Give it a look and keep an eye on it while it progresses over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Luther Strange to Switch to AG Race?

I first read about this rumor on another blog, Politics in Alabama, but I had a Republican source of mine come very close to confirming it this afternoon.

The rumor being that Birmingham attorney Luther Strange will now set his sights on the Attorney General's office. Strange has been running for Lieutenant Governor for months. However with George Wallace, Jr. sucking all the political oxygen out of the GOP primary, some Republicans have been encouraging Strange switch to the AG's race. Current Attorney General Troy King has had a rocky tenure since his 2003 appointment by Bob Riley.

I had heard the rumor about Strange opting out of the LG race, but now I've been told that it's likely Strange has made the decision to change horses. My source put the chances of Strange running for AG at "90%". So take that for what it's worth.

Just yesterday I posted that Troy King's path to the GOP nomination was starting to clear up, but now it seems things might get dicey for the AG. Strange has already raised a significant amount of money in his current race and can use it instead for the AG race. I don't know how a Strange/King matchup would shake out, but it would certainly put Troy King's coronation as the GOP nominee on hold. A competitive Republican primary would also be of potential benefit to presumptive Democratic nominee John Tyson. Tyson will be able to hoard his campaign cash while Strange/Tyson burn money in a race that could get nasty.

If Strange does indeed opt out of the LG race, it becomes difficult to see how George Wallace Jr. doesn't win the nomination without a runoff. Mo Brooks would be the only credible Wallace opponent and no one really expects him to give Wallace much trouble.

I think it's a smart move for Strange to change races. While a primary against Troy King is no certain proposition, Strange has much better odds in the AG's race. And a Strange switcheroo would further liven up an already exciting primary calendar.

Sellers Won't Run for AG

Attorney General Troy King is one step closer to a clear path to the Republican nomination. Montgomery attorney Will Sellers recently removed his name from the list of potential primary challengers. Instead of undertaking one of the hardest political maneuvers (unseating an incumbent), Sellers will engage in one of the easiest. Sellers will manage Treasurer Kay Ivey's bid for re-election. Ivey is arguably the safest incumbent on the 2006 statewide ballot.

Seller's decision leaves Mark Montiel as the only other known Republican candidate contemplating a race for Attorney General. Though Montiel hasn't announced one way or the other, he does not sound like a candidate gearing up for a statewide run. He seems more focused on the the GOP led lawsuit challenging state legislative lines.

With John Tyson facing only nuisance competition on the Democratic side and no Republicans eager to challenge Troy King, it looks like the long awaited Tyson/King faceoff will begin sooner rather than later.

Everett Backs Blunt

Rep Terry Everett (R-Enterprise) has gone public with his support backing Rep Roy Blunt (R-MO) to become the next House Majority Leader. Blunt is currently the Acting Majority Leader having taken over from Tom Delay (R-TX) during Delay's legal troubles. But with Delay's announcement that he is permanently stepping down from the post, a heated Republican leadership battle has developed for the #2 spot in the House.

Everett joins colleague Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) in backing Blunt, while Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, and Spencer Bachus have thus far refrained from publicly engaging in the race.

Blunt claims the private support of a majority of House Republicans, but does not have that many public backers. John Boehner (R-OH) also has significant support and has proven to be Blunt's chief rival, but John Shadegg (R-AZ) recently joined the race and though he has not developed a long list of public backers he has won the support of some influential conservatives around the country.

It is certainly possible that some of Alabama's Republican members are private commits to Blunt, but for one reason or another don't want to go public with their support. The leadership elections are scheduled for early February and though Blunt has the edge currently, don't be surprised if the race tightens as the elections approach. In that case Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, and Spencer Bachus may be key votes in deciding the next House Majority Leader.

Not So Poor Richard

I ran across a 2003 list of the wealth of the members of the US Senate. 40 members of the US Senate are millionaires. That number includes 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats and John Kerry topped the list at over $160,000,000.

Alabama's own Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) weighs in at a cool $7,000,000+. It doesn't give financial information on Jeff Sessions (R-Mobile)since he did not make the millionaires list.

Since this list is a couple of years old a few of the numbers will have changed, but it is eye-opening to see the disconnect between the average American and those who represent them.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Parties React Differently to MLK Day

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. day I thought it'd be interesting to contrast the reactions to the holiday of both state parties.

The Alabama Democratic Party, according to their website, is closing their office in commemoration of King's birthday. Chair Joe Turnham also penned a piece offering his personal take on the significance of the day.

But as far as I can tell the Alabama Republican Party (again going by their website) is neither closing down their office for MLK day nor recognizing the holiday at all. The AL GOP office was closed last Friday, but that was only "in preparation for our Annual Winter Dinner". Now I'm certainly not suggesting that the Alabama GOP is hostile to MLK day or even that they are ignoring it. I just expected to see some recognition of MLK day by the party that can claim (by some measures at least) to be Alabama's majority party.

Obviously the demographics of the two parties make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a more prominent event for your average Democrat than your average Republican, but I am still surprised to see such a contrast. Martin Luther King Jr., though a controversial figure in the 1960s, has since become an almost universally respected and admired figure.

I hope and believe that the difference in the observances of MLK day by Alabama's two parties is not representative of a deeper split among the public.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Weekend Winners and Losers - 01/14

Winners
Robert Aderholt - Aderholt scored a coup by securing a Dick Cheney visit for a February fundraiser. Although isn't there a more endangered GOP incumbent that could use a visit from the veep?

Steve Hurst - This Democratic state rep scored a victory as the House passed his bill to put "God Bless America" on some Alabama car tags.

Roy Moore - Moore's gubernatorial campaign gets a boost as the AL GOP holds off outlawing crossover voting. Conventional wisdom has Moore appealing to many non-traditional Republicans.

Mixed
Bob Riley - Got generally good reviews on the State of the State, but complicated things by maybe, sorta plagiarizing Bill Clinton. And don't forget Scanlon/Abramoff...

Losers
Nancy Worley/Troy King - Though Worley seems to have gotten the worst of it, their public squabbling probably has done little to improve public impressions of either beleaguered incumbent.

Don Siegelman - Things aren't going well when you have to constantly insist that you're "staying in the race".

Decatur Daily - I like the Decatur Daily, but can't they do better than this,"Readers prefer those who aren't overweight"?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Conservative Criticizes Parker's Criticism

My post last week on Tom Parker's op-ed rebuking his fellow members of the all GOP State Supreme Court seemed to engage readers on both sides of the issue. So to stick with the story and present both sides of the coin, I thought I'd mention Gary Palmer's column critically deconstructing Parker's op-ed.

If you're not familiar with the issues involved here, check out my initial piece for a brief background.

Gary Palmer is the president of the Alabama Policy Institute , a conservative think tank. Palmer and Parker actually agree that US Supreme Court Case in question was wrongly decided, but the two have starkly different expectations of how the Alabama Supreme Court should have responded. Palmer not only takes aim at Parker's legal reasoning but also takes Parker to task on a personal level.

To my untrained legal eye, Palmer's argument against Parker's fundamental reasoning is contained with this statement:

While Parker is correct that Roper is another example of judicial activism, the decision by his colleagues to abide by the higher court's ruling does not constitute a failure to defend the U.S. Constitution nor is it passive accommodation of judicial activism. The other eight justices were in fact upholding the rule of law because all judges are bound by precedent.

Conservative judicial activism is no more acceptable than liberal judicial activism because in the end both lead to an undermining of the public respect and trust of the law. Consequently, by advocating that conservative judges engage in judicial activism by refusing to uphold the precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, Parker himself fails the test of judicial restraint.
Palmer is also critical of the manner in which Parker made his disagreements known.

It is distressing to see a member of the Alabama Supreme Court undermine the decorum of the court by attacking the credibility of his fellow justices, all of whom can legitimately lay claim to solid credentials as conservatives and constructionists when it comes to abiding by and upholding the U.S. Constitution.

By writing the article, Parker himself demonstrated a lack of judicial restraint and that is no way for a member of the state's highest court to conduct himself.
One other thing I found interesting was Palmer's identification of the governor and attorney general (not the state supreme court) as the officials with the standing and authority to fight "activist decisions" from the Supremes. Palmer's argument is sensible, but I bet Bob Riley and Troy King would rather sit this one out than engage in the conservative hand-to-hand combat now taking place surrounding the state's judiciary. If Parker and his allies were convinced by Palmer's logic, they would simply turn their guns on Riley and King.

Be sure to read Palmer's piece, though for a more complete window into this compelling legal debate.

Parker's unconventional manner and unorthodox judicial philosophy are certainly ruffling feathers among some in the conservative legal community. However, unlike many intellectual and legal debates that bypass the average citizen, Alabama voters will have a chance to weigh in on these weighty matters in the June primary and the November general election.

TX Candidate Misspells Own Name

A candidate running for governor in Texas' name was misspelled on her own filing application. The candidate involved, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, is no crackpot either. Strayhorn is the twice elected State Comptroller and a longtime Texas political fixture. Yet her candidate filing application twice misspelled her last name as "Strahorn", omitting the "y".

Her attorney has since taken responsibility for the error and after a brief scare, a spokesman for the Secretary of State ruled that Strayhorn was still eligible for the ballot despite the snafu.

Strayhorn is actually running an interesting race. As a statewide elected Republican officeholder, she was preparing to challenge incumbent governor Rick Perry in the Republican primary. But as the primary neared, her chances looked increasingly bleak and she decided to file as an independent. This has now pitted Strayhorn, a veteran GOP politician, against her former Republican allies.

This latest development has also put one of Strayhorn's sons in an awkward position. She is the mother of Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan. McClellan had to choose to either oppose his own mother or line up against his boss (George W. Bush) and home state GOP allies. Unsurpisingly McClellan is backing his mom and says that he and the president have agreed to disagree on the matter.

Her campaign certainly has a better shot at success than most indie bids, but it would take a minor miracle for her to oust Perry. And Strayhorn's gaffe is obviously not a shrewd way to kick off a long-shot independent bid for governor.

Alabama politicians catch a lot of grief (from both inside and outside the state), but I'd wager they can all spell their own name.

Radio Ads Target GOP "Loyalty Oath"

The Alabama Values Coalition recently released radio ads taking Alabama Republican leaders to task over their recent decision to require GOP legislative candidates to sign "leadership pledges", or as some have dubbed them "loyalty oaths". Phillip Rawls at the AP has a good summary of the issue if you haven't been following it closely.

I don't know that much about the Alabama Values Coalition, but from a perusal of their website they seem to be trying to provide a counterweight to conservative Christian groups. For example they advocate constitutional reform, environmental protection, and a host of other positions that an organization like the Christian Coalition probably wouldn't find kosher.

The Alabama Values Coalition is getting involved in the 2006 election cycle early with the release of two radio ads criticizing the AL GOP for their recent adoption of leadership pledges. The ads identify the maneuver as a ploy to force Republican candidates to "swear allegiance" to "Republican bosses". You can download and listen to the ads directly from the AVC's site.

The ads make an interesting listen and mark an early kickoff to the media blitz that will certainly accompany the 2006 elections.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Conservative Groups Oppose Bible Literacy Bill

Conservative Christian groups have come out against a House Democrat initiative to teach Bible literacy in Alabama public schools. John Giles of the Alabama Christian Coalition seems to sum up their sentiment pretty well,

"It is clear this is frivolous and feel good election year legislation"
This seems like an idea the Christian Coalition would generally trumpet, but since the sponsors have a "D" and not an "R" next to their name their support is not so unequivocal (not that there isn't politics on the Democratic side of the equation as well). In the same contrarian vein Sen. Hank Erwin and Rep. Jim Carns are introducing legislation saying that the Democratic Bible literacy legislation is unnecessary.

I can understand the GOP's frustration with Democrats' moving onto their recent turf, but I'll be very surprised if many of the Republicans actually vote against the Bible literacy bill if it comes to the floor.

AL GOP Reps Mum on Delay Successor

With Tom Delay's announcement that he would not try to regain his former majority leader's post even if (and that's a big if) all his legal troubles go away, came a split in the US House's GOP caucus. The two would be successors to Delay are acting Majority leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former GOP Conference Chair John Boehner (R-OH).

The GOP caucus has been seriously split by this leadership race. The formerly harmonious Republican caucus is now in "every man for himself" mode. Roy Blunt is the obvious choice if the GOP is seeking status quo. Blunt was Majority Whip until Delay was forced to resign due to indictments at which point Blunt became "acting" Majority Leader. However, now that Delay's absence is permanent John Boehner has thrown his hat into the ring. Boehner has been planning a comeback since he was ousted from the 4th highest leadership position (GOP Conference Chair) after the 1998 elections.

And with speculation that Speaker Dennis Hastert will relinquish his gavel after 2008, the winner of this leadership election is likely to be the favorite for the next Speaker of the House assuming the GOP maintains control of the body.

Both Blunt and Boehner are serious candidates for the position and have already corralled significant public support. As of this writing Blunt has 62 public supporters to Boehner's 35, though both claim more private commitments. A majority of at least 116 votes is neede dto win the position.

However, since Boehner and especially Blunt have ties to the current GOP leadership there is some talk of other candidates emerging. There is some (it is hard to tell to what extent) GOP appetite for a "fresh face" who would present a change from the current regime which is mired in various scandals and malaise.

Yet even though the US House GOP are facing a watershed moment, only one of Alabama's 5 GOP Representatives is publicly supporting a candidate. Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) is backing Blunt, which means that Everett, Rogers, Aderholt, and Bachus have yet to publicly weigh in on this momentous decision. Perhaps they are part of the contingent waiting for a new candidate to emerge. Or maybe they're not inclined to make their preferences public.

But nearly half of the House GOP caucus has already picked sides in the leadership fight, I wonder what Alabama's Republicans are waiting for.

Dem Response to State of the State

Since I linked to a text of the governor's address, to be fair I thought I'd link to the Democratic response. The response was released by Ken Guin, the House majority leader, and is largely a response to Riley's speech as well as laying out Democratic contrasts.

The Senate Democrats also released their agenda for the session yesterday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lt Gov: Mend It or End It

Let's do something about the Lieutenant Governor. Not Lucy Baxley, but the office itself.

We all know that since the Windom/Siegelman showdown in early 1999, that the office is no longer necessary. Let's either get rid of the office altogether or actually give the LG something to do. Either eliminate it and save Alabama taxpayers from subsidizing boredom or find a new way to get our money's worth from the office.

Several states don't have a Lieutenat Governor at all. NH, VT, TN, NJ, WY, OR, and AZ all don't have an LG and they seem to get by ok. "What happens when the governor has to leave office before his term is up?", you may ask. They just have another official take over. In some states it's the State Senate leader and in others it's the Secretary of State. But Alabamians can devise their own order of succession. In short, a LG is not necessary for a smooth transition if a governor leaves office early.

Or if we just have to have a Lieutenant Governor, let's at least give them something to do. It'd be naive to think that the State Senate will cede the power it gained in the 1999 coup back to the LG, but there's no reason not to give the office some power.

What about giving the LG the duties of the State Auditor? Many people, including the current state auditor Beth Chapman, have discussed eliminating the office. Why don't we just put the auditor's duties under the LG's purview. Since the LG is already elected independently of the governor, there is no reason to think that the LG wouldn't be any less independent of the governor's office than under the current system of the partisanly elected auditor.

Or if you can't go for that, then let's find some new role for the Lieutenant Governor. In Louisiana, the LG is in charge of tourism. Alabama certianly doesn't have the tourism industry that LA does (or at least did), but that's not a bad idea for starters. There is no reason why the LG couldn't be charged with tackling such an issue (or issues) to earn their paycheck.

Seeing the once omnipotent office of Alabama's Lieutenant Governor now impotently idling away their term yawing in the State Senate is depressing. It's like Willie Mays playing for the Mets or Johnny Unitas in a Chargers uniform. It's just unnatural.

It doesn't really matter to me what happens to the LG's office, as long as changes are made. Eliminate it. Merge it. Empower it. Just do something.

Bonner Challenger on Deck

Alabama has seven members in the US House and at this point none of them have major party challengers for the 2006 elections.

That could change soon as Democrat Brad Warren is making moves to run against Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) in the 1st Congressional district. I know little about Warren, other than that he is a vice president at the Mobile-based Southern Chemical Formulators firm.

Certainly a challenge to Bonner would be uphill and I can't see a compelling reason why voters would oust the incumbent. But I am glad to see some competition for Alabama incumbents at the federal level and if Warren runs a solid race he might establish himself as a political player in the years to come.

The State According to Bob

Here's a text of Bob Riley's State of the State address delivered last night provided by the Montgomery Advertiser. And if you want the short version, the Advertiser also has a piece hitting some of the high points.

Riley's speech was half promotion and half laundry list. The first part of the speech discussed the progress (according to Riley) the state has made over the past few years while the second laid out specific policy goals to undertake during this legislative session.

Among his goals for the session are tax cuts, education spending increases, and property tax reform, all which look relatively likely to occur in some form or another. He also jumped aboard a bill targeting violence against an "unborn child" advocated by GOP legislators. Riley also listed legislative term limits, child pornography, and public safety as his focuses for the next session.

One area I hadn't seen mentioned before the speech was that of lobbying reform. Riley's bill calling for the disclosure of lobbyist spending might be a reaction to the corruption investigations surrounding some national GOP leaders. As I've discussed before Riley has a history with some of the culprits in that scandal and pushing lobbying reform might be the governor's defense against potential attacks.

Among those issues not addressed by Riley: immigration, constitutional reform, capital punishment, Bible literacy, 10 Commandments. Those are all topics that have some constituency in the legislature looking for some action.

Riley's speech seems solid enough, but of course it is just rhetoric. It is the actions, not the words, taken over the next few months that will go a long way in determining who delivers the next State of the State.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Legislature Tips Off Today

Today marks the beginning of the final general legislative session before the 2006 elections. Accordingly there aren't great expectations of the legislature ambitiously tackling controversial issues. Both parties want to score a few political points, refrain from embarrassing themselves, then get back to their districts to prepare for elections.

The AP has a good thumbnail sketch of the issues likely to be confronted over the next few months.

The budget process won't necessarily be as grueling as some years as revenue surpluses negate the need for painful budget cuts. However, how to use the the surplus will no doubt be a source of controversy. How much of it should be spent on schools? How much should be refunded to taxpayers? Legislators might be missing the good ol' days of proration after all.

One of the biggest issues in terms of setting the political landscape for the election year will revolve around property tax appraisals. The issue of the Riley administration's 2003 move to annual appraisals (as opposed to the once every four years method) has already become a political football in the governors race, with Roy Moore and Don Siegelman critical of the annual system. Riley has said the annual appraisal method is required by law and a reversal to the old way would require a change in the law.

Well that is exactly what some in the legislature will try to do. Nobody wants to be seen as pro-tax, especially in an election year. Certainly Bob Riley would appreciate the issue disappearing, Lowell Barron is on board, and according to the AP a majority of legislators (who responded to the question) would back the return to the once every four year standard.

But it won't be that easy. Paul Hubbert doesn't like the idea of losing $170 million in school funding (and an extra $270 in government revenues) by abandoning yearly appraisals and is likely to use his considerable influence to keep the status quo in place. So that will be a showdown to watch that will impact races up and down the 2006 ballot.

There will be no shortage of hot button controversial issues for sure. The GOP plans to submit legislation dealing with immigration (Mickey Hammon), abortion (Spencer Collier), capital punishment (Cam Ward), and super-majority tax increases (Bobby Humphryes).

Democrats have already drawn considerable attention for their Bible literacy bill( Ken Guin) and a bill to put "God Bless America" on state license plates (Steve Hurst). Alabama Democrats obviously are doing all they can to demonstrate their "Alabama values" so they don't suffer the same fate their national brethren did in 2004. But a Democratic led effort to rewrite the Alabama constitution is not likely to go anywhere.

Democrats are content, however, to let Bob Riley make the first step in the budget process and react to his plans instead of introducing their own budget. And that process will start tomorrow evening with the State of the State address.

Let the games begin.

Holmes Rages at Riley

State Rep Alvin Holmes is no stranger to controversy. He rarely refrains from speaking his mind about, well whatever's on his mind. Currently, maps are what's got Holmes' goat.

More specifically, it is the lack of the presence of "Martin Luther King Jr Expressway" on official Alabama state maps. MLK expressway is a part of I-85 that runs through Montgomery. According to Holmes, the state maps have roads named after Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee on them, but no MLK. So maybe he has a point.

Holmes says he's been promised action on the matter before, but nothing has been changed. If action is not taken by Jan 20, Holmes will attempt to have the federal government cut off Alabama's federal transportation dollars.

Of course it's impossible to imagine such a thing happening, but we'll see how the Riley administration reacts in the face of the Holmes' threat.

Monday, January 09, 2006

More Bad News for DC GOP

I've already posted on the scandal swirling around Jack Abramoff and Congressional Republicans, but since my last posting a couple of new elements have developed.

Earlier in the week I talked about a report saying Abramoff's cooperation with the Justice Department investigation could implicate 20 congressmen or congressional aides. Well that might just be the tip of the iceberg. Other reports quote Justice Department sources saying as many as 60 congressmen could be ensnared in the bribery scandal.

Since Abramoff was a Republican lobbyist and all the members mentioned thus far as targets have been Republicans, it would be fair to assume a significant majority of 60 hypothetical targets would be Republicans as well. If we say that 50 Republicans will be implicated in some form or another, that would mean that more than 1 out of every 5 House Republicans could be targeted. Coincidentally enough, Alabama is represented by 5 Republican in the US House. If the Abramoff scandal does indeed snowball, it'll be interesting to see which (if any) Alabama Republicans are drawn into the morass.

And remember Duke Cunningham (R-CA), the disgraced ex-congressman who recently stepped down after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors? Time is reporting that before he copped his plea in the case, Cunningham wore a wire to gather evidence against other potentially corrupt congressmen.

And while it's not impossible (or even unlikely) that a few wayward Democrats could find their way into the middle of either of these scandals, Republicans seem to be the targets of both of these investigations. It didn't seem possible, but the Republican week from hell, just got a little worse.

Best Beard in the Legislature

I went with Joseph Mitchell (D-Mobile), but it's not an easy call.

Of course there's nary a beard to be found in the State Senate, but fortunately there a few in the State House.

As far as I can tell the other contenders are Randy Davis, Mickey Hammon, Ronald Johnson, John Knight, Richard Lindsey, and Jim McLendon.

Any thoughts?

Sessions Backtracks on 2003 Call for Troop Reduction

I've waited several days after the story broke to comment on the recent revelation that Jeff Sessions wrote a 2003 letter to Donald Rumsfeld encouraging a troop reduction in Iraq. I had hoped that the story would make more sense to me if I thought about if for a while. It doesn't.

After a September 2003 trip to Iraq, Sessions returned and advocated a reduction in the number of US troops "as quickly as possible". Obviously, Donald Rumsfeld didn't agree.

The Mobile Register unearthed Session's letter through a Freedom of Information Act request. Sessions explained the 2003 letter saying,

"I was more hopeful about the continued decline in violence than actually occurred."

Apparently in 2003 Sessions thought the war had been so successful that American troops were no longer needed. He now disavows such a policy and made sure to decry as "ridiculous" comparisons between Sessions' call for troop reductions with John Murtha's (D-PA) call for troop reductions.

Indeed, Sessions is now fully on the "stay the course" message in regards to the war. And though this one minor story will probably be all that comes from his 2003 letter, there seems to be more than meets the eye here. At the very least it is an odd revelation and certainly out of character for this normally strident GOP partisan.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Guest Blog: Former Riley Aide on Her Way Up

Since Zac made note of one now-infamous former Riley press secretary (Michael Scanlon), I thought I should make note of one who has gone on to bigger and better things.

Susan Dryden Whitson, subject of a recent Birmingham News article , was my 9th and 10th grade English teacher back when she was just Miss Dryden. I remember when she took a summer internship with then-Congressman Riley and never came back.

She has since worked for John Ashcroft and now for Laura Bush. One of my high school friends called me just before this article came out to tell me he had seen Miss Dryden on CNN defending the Bush's "Happy Holidays" Christmas card. I wonder if she finds her current job easier or harder that explaining Dante's Inferno to a room full of 15-year-olds.

(Guest Blog by CNH_320 )

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