Political jockeying at full force for 2006
Even though 2005 is not an election year it does not mean that politics is not alive and well in Alabama. The political pot is boiling under the surface. It will explode into full combat later this year with the governor's race looming on the horizon for 2006. The fundraising, jockeying and skirmishing is under way preparing for the battle.
The Democrats have struggled with the uncertainty as to who will be their party chairman during next year's election. Chairman Redding Pitt came under intense fire in January to resign. He has quietly held on for six months in a somewhat tentative position, after every Democratic elected face card, including Lucy Baxley, called for his resignation. They seemed to blame Pitt for the failure of the Democratic ticket in the 2004 Presidential Election.
Their anger is puzzling to most astute observers. It is doubtful that anybody who is chairman of the state Democratic Party could have any affect on Alabama voting for a Democrat for President.
The Republican presidential candidate has carried Alabama and indeed the entire South for 40 years and usually the margin of victory is great enough to provide coattails to down ballot races that happen to be on the ticket that year.
Therefore, the call for Pitt's resignation probably had more to do with the fact that Pitt is closely allied with Don Siegelman and Lucy people wanted their own person or at least a neutral chairman. Nevertheless, Pitt is still in place and his term does not actually end until year-end 2006.
In other behind the scenes Democratic Party maneuverings a good many party leaders have urged and even begged former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. to join the ticket in 2006. They first encouraged him to run for governor.
However, it became obvious earlier in the year that Lucy Baxley had staked out the front runner position, so the focus became to get Jim to run for lieutenant governor.
They believe that his name identification would make him unbeatable in that race and would bolster the entire ticket also helping Lucy. The lieutenant governor's job has lost much of its power and this will not be a money magnet for attracting big campaign dough, therefore, someone who already has name identification like Folsom has an immense advantage.
Jim and Marsha Folsom are an attractive political team who know how to campaign. However, Jim who is very laid back and enjoys spending an afternoon on the fishing banks more than shaking hands may disdain any reentry into politics. He is enjoying a good life and making a good living in the investment banking business.
It looks at this time that Little Jim will not take the bait, but will continue to enjoy the quiet life of Cullman. Ironically, Folsom's dismissal of the lieutenant governor's race may allow a fellow Cullman County Democrat to move into position to be the nominee. An obscure Cullman State Sen. Zeb Little may be Lucy Baxley's choice to run for that post.
The Democrats are also scurrying to find a replacement for Secretary of State Nancy Worley. She is considered vulnerable after a disastrous term and is seen as a weak link in the Democratic lineup. Republican Beth Chapman seems committed to moving to the secretary of state race and hopes to take on Worley.
The Republicans have their party chairmanship settled. Earlier this year, Twinkle Andress-Cavanaugh took the reigns of the state GOP and became the first female to hold this post in Alabama. In the past, the chair of the Alabama Republican Party has been a wealthy white man who was not only successful in business but also a proven political success.
Examples of past GOP chairmen include Emory Folmar a Montgomery developer and longtime mayor of the Capitol City who served as mayor without pay and Mobile Mayor Arthur Outlaw whose family owned Morrison's Restaurants.
In recent years the Republican Party has chosen younger, less successful political operatives like Marty Connors, a northern transplant who lost his only race, a futile shot for Congress in Birmingham when Spencer Bachus won the seat and Twinkle Andress who ran unsuccessfully for State Treasurer. Andress-Cavanaugh and Connors appear to be the new breed of behind the scene nuts and bolts people. This appears to work well for the Republicans. Twinkle is a member of the Riley team and will be a Riley ally as the 2006 Primary contest approaches. I'll keep you posted.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He served 16 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.