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Sunday, November 12, 2006
PoliColumn I (Alabama Politics)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:30 am

From today’s Birmingham News:

Now, watch post-election drama of politics play out
Sunday, November 12, 2006
STEVEN L. TAYLOR

Election night was great drama in terms of the national races. We saw a change in control of the Congress for the first time in a dozen years. Democrats are returned to power. By comparison, the Alabama contests were dull - or were they?

Certainly the congressional races in Alabama were deadly boring - three members of the state congressional delegation had no opposition and the other four faced anemic opponents. The closet race was in eastern Alabama’s District 3 where Mike Rogers, the incumbent Republican, bested Democrat Greg Pierce with 60 percent of the vote.

I would note that despite all the national hoopla, the truth of the matter is most of the country was in a similar position as Alabama: They, too, had little drama over their congressional elections. Of the 38 Senate seats that were on the ballot this year, only eight of the contests had a real chance of going either way. And of the 435 House seats that were on the ballot, we saw only (as of this writing, some are undecided still) 29 that changed partisan hands from last election to this one.

Of course, the biggest race of the night in Alabama was the governor’s race, where incumbent Gov. Bob Riley handily defeated Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley by 16 points. However, there was some drama over the election of Baxley’s replacement, wherein an old guard Democrat, former Gov. Jim Folsom, bested GOP newcomer Luther Strange for the second seat in the constellation of Alabama executive offices.

This leaves Riley with a Democratic lieutenant governor and a Democratic Legislature, and so it will be interesting to see how he will be able to govern over the next four years. Will Riley be able to implement his ambitious “Plan 2010″ or will it be dead on the vine? That depends if Riley can find enough Democrats to join Republicans, and that a call for the Legislature to make.

Also, does Folsom’s re-entry into state politics signal he will seek the governorship in 2010? And if not, where will the Democratic Party find its next great hope?

Another interesting bit of surprise on election night was the defeat of Drayton Nabers by Sue Bell Cobb in the race for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Nabers was looking to win election to a full term after he was appointed to the position by Riley in 2004 to replace Roy Moore. One wonders whether Nabers’ defeat was the result of the tenor of the television ad campaign or if there was residual resentment among some Republicans over the removal of Justice Moore from the bench over the Ten Commandments monument.

These questions surface not because of specific surprise about Cobb but, rather, because of the general Republican trends in the state. For example, Riley received 717,287 votes and Nabers only 565,571. In fact, Nabers received one of the lowest vote totals of any GOP candidate running for major state office. Of course, Cobb has long been a popular appeals court judge, and Nabers was making his first run for public office.

Another surprise was the ease by which Amendment 2 passed. Yes, it helped radically that the amendment only affected 30 school districts and so it was a freebie, so to speak, for most residents. Still, Alabamians tend to break out in hives when anything that even mildly smacks of a tax increase appears on the ballot. For example, it was just two years ago that voters rejected an amendment to remove racist language from the state constitution because some in the state argued it would result in, through a complex process, tax increases. As such, the passage of Amendment 2 by wide margins is encouraging.

So, it is true there wasn’t much nail-biting in Alabama’s statewide elections - except by the candidates. Now we get to sit back and see how it all plays out. Can Riley and Folsom and the Democrats work together? How will the legislature respond? Will the state’s economy continue to provide budget surpluses, or will a slow-down lead to squabbles over money? How will Cobb, as chief justice and a Democrat on an otherwise Republican court, function? How will the school districts deal with their new Amendment 2 mandate?

Stay tuned. The drama of politics is always on the air.

Filed under: US Politics, My Columns, Alabama Politics, 2006 Elections | |Send TrackBack

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