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Sunday, January 1, 2006
PoliColumn: Alabama Politics Preview, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:50 am

From the Mobile Register:

Election year 2006
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Special to the Register

Today we begin the long journey to the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November: Election Day, 2006.

While campaigns and elections irritate many people, I have to confess that I love elections. There is something magical about the idea that the citizens of a community can come together, and one by one their views are compiled until winners are declared and a new version of the government is constituted.

We take it so for granted, this idea that the people of this country get to choose those who govern — even though the vast preponderance of human history has been a tale of rulers coming to power by the sword or by inheritance.

It is true that the results of elections are often not as magical as we might like them to be. Indeed, sometimes the results disappoint or frustrate us.

But part of the true magic of democracy is that no matter how much one dislikes the president, governor or state legislators, politicians eventually will have to submit themselves to the voters again.

We are ultimately governed by the ballot box — and that is a remarkable achievement in human history.

Plus, in addition to all the philosophical and historical musings, elections are fun because they are full of human drama. And no state in the country is likely to have more drama, at least in the primary season, than Alabama.

As a headline on an Associated Press wire story correctly proclaimed just the other day: “Alabama gubernatorial primary season sure to be a must-see.”

If we look at the cast of characters, we have four principal players: the incumbent governor, Bob Riley; the ousted chief justice of Alabama, Roy Moore; the former governor, Don Siegelman (currently under multiple federal indictments); and the current lieutenant governor, Lucy Baxley.

And, as a side note, George C. Wallace Jr. is going to be running for lieutenant governor, which should allow reflection on the infamous political career of his father.

To be honest, Riley is not Mr. Excitement, but as the sitting governor whose term in office has some interesting story lines (think: Amendment One), his fortunes will be interesting to watch — especially because his task is to fend off Moore.

Baxley, despite long service in state office, is not really all that well known in terms of her views. However, she comes to the Democratic side of the race with a catchy slogan (”I Love Lucy”) and the lucky situation of having her major competitor under the cloud of indictment.

The drama, as we build to the June primaries, will be supplied primarily by Moore and Siegelman.

Moore brings his religious populism to the Republican primary and his hope that between the Ten Commandments and the fact that Riley tried to raise taxes via Amendment One, he can create enough of a schism within the party to win the nomination.

While there is no doubt that Moore has a core of fervent followers, recent polling has indicated that it is not as large as one might have thought.

Further, Moore will have to face the fact that his defiance of a federal court order does not sit well with many religious conservatives (his natural constituency), who may like Ten Commandment monuments but also believe in law and order. This is not 1960s Alabama, where defiance of the federal government translated directly into political popularity.

We have to remember that Moore not only got into trouble with the federal courts, but that his fellow Republican Supreme Court justices defied him and saw to it that the federal order was honored.

Further, Moore was ousted under the administration of a Republican governor and a Republican attorney general.

Meanwhile, Don Siegelman has to find a way to convince the voters that the indictments against him are politically driven and are therefore to be ignored. He is also going to try to resurrect his lottery plan, which failed in spectacular fashion at the polls in 1999.

A main storyline this year will be the economy of the state, which is humming along. A report in the Birmingham News last week noted that the unemployment rate hit 3.6 percent in November.

Also, because the state’s revenues are derived primarily from sales and incomes taxes, a good economy means that both the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund will be in good shape this year.

While there are long-term structural problems with fiscal policy in our state, this is not the year to convince voters of that fact.

As such, Siegelman’s lottery proposal is not going to have legs. Combine that with his legal problems, and one would expect, at least at this point, for Baxley to have the advantage in the Democratic primary.

However, the former governor is an excellent campaigner and no doubt will put up a heck of a fight.

On the GOP side, the incumbent governor is in excellent shape — far better than one might have imagined possible a few years back, when it seemed that his political capital had been irrevocably spent after his support of Amendment One in 2003.

But memories are short in politics. Since then, Bob Riley scored public points with his handling of Katrina relief. And more important than anything, in terms of his re-election bid, is the surging economy.

Add to all of this legislative elections, and the fact that the U.S. House and one-third of the Senate will stand for re-election, and you have a plate full of political intrigue on Alabamians’ table for 2006.

It should be fun indeed.

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

1 Comment »

  1. Professor, I have only one comment about this well thought out and composed article. You said, “We are ultimately governed by the ballot box — and that is a remarkable achievement in human history”. Respectfully, sir, I must say that the results from the ballot boxes, at least from what I have observed here in Alabama, have missed being remarkable, or advantageous to the citizenry at large, by more than a country mile. I attribute that dismal performance to two primary causes. First, is the general apathy of the citizens, many of whom may never come within “spittin” distance of a ballot box. Secondly, and primarily, is that so many of those who do exercise the privilege (indeed, duty, as I see it) to vote are either grossly uninformed, or massively misinformed.

    Comment by Don Seibold — Saturday, January 7, 2006 @ 5:41 pm

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