Attorney general’s race a big battlePublished 4:00am Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The Republican primary for attorney general may be as interesting and competitive as any contest on the ballot this year. The winner of this battle royale between incumbent Troy King and challenger Luther Strange will be the odds on favorite to take home all the marbles in the fall. Alabama voters have tended to favor a Republican in the attorney general’s office for two decades now.
King is facing the toughest challenge of his young political life. He has been attorney general for over six years, having ascended to the post when Bill Pryor was appointed to the federal bench. King was appointed by Gov. Bob Riley to fill Pryor’s unexpired term as attorney general. Prior to that Riley had made King his legal advisor.
King had very little courtroom experience when he was named attorney general. However, in 2006 he won the office on his own by defeating Mobile District Attorney John Tyson. This term has been tough for King to say the least. King has been embroil-ed in so many controversies that it is hard to know where to begin. He has openly feuded with his political benefactor Bob Riley. Their conflict has escalated to epic proportions over the recent electronic bingo debacle. Earlier King had to recuse himself from the probe of the junior college corruption scandal because he had asked the post-secondary Chancellor Roy Johnson to help find a job in the system for an employee’s mother about the time that the scandal erupted. This led to King becoming the subject of a federal grand jury probe.
King has weathered the storm. The grand jury came back with no cause to indict. He then finally came off the sidelines and got involved in the bingo issue. King has come across as more reasonable and statesmanlike than the governor and his deputy John Tyson.
Big Luther Strange stands 6’9” tall. He is a Birmingham attorney but has spent most of his adult working life as a Washington lobbyist for corporate clients. During his years in Washington he developed close friendships with Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. In a very rare move these two senators openly endorsed Strange in the attorney general’s race. However, it remains to be seen whether these endorsements are helpful. Alabamians have tended to ignore endorsements from other politicians meddling in other races even if the endorser is popular.
Strange came on the scene four years ago and built big time name identification with a ton of money in his race for lieutenant governor. In the closest race in 2006, Jim Folsom Jr. edged out Strange by an eyelash. If only a handful of voters had fallen Strange’s way in 2006 he would be the frontrunner for governor today. Instead, he has chosen to challenge King who he perceives as very vulnerable. He will exploit King’s weaknesses in the campaign. He has plenty of ammunition. Both men have sufficient funds to spend on television ads and are in a dead heat in polling.