Riley can't ‘out-God' Moore in politics
While we have been strolling down memory lane for the past four months reliving past governor's races, the field has been formulating for next year's gubernatorial contest. Actually there have been no significant changes since the summer.
It was expected at that time that Bob Riley, Roy Moore, Don Siegelman and Lucy Baxley would be the major players and all that has happened is that they have confirmed the expected, all four have officially announced. It should be a fun and exciting race.
All four face cards have statewide name identification prior to the battle. Therefore they will not need to use their resources introducing themselves. The bad part is that these resources could be focused on negative advertising aimed at disassociating you from their opponent.
The Republican horses have shown their hands on what their strategies will be. Moore, being the religious right candidate, will try to expand his appeal to more moderate Republicans who are anti-big government and anti-tax.
This strategy is the best of all four because it will fall on fertile ground. Incumbent Riley's Achilles heel is his 2003 tax proposal, which was soundly defeated by Alabamians. If enacted, Riley's plan would have been the largest tax increase in state history.
Moore kicked off his campaign touting a five-point program with the first four focusing on issues rather than religion. His points included issues popular with Republican Primary voters, such as term limits for legislators and measures against illegal aliens.
Moore hammered Riley on his tax package. While expanding his approach, Moore never lets go of his paramount issue: God and the Ten Commandments. When Moore announced his candidacy for governor in early October his first platform plank was the “acknowledgement of God.”
When Riley announced a week later the governor touted his pro business background and economic development prowess. He then declared himself a very religious man. The most telling sign of Riley's commitment to try to wrestle Moore for some of the religious right vote was that for the next three weeks Riley campaigned in churches throughout the state.
Therefore both Republicans' game plans are on the table. Riley will strive to keep his moderate pro business Republican base in tact while trying to penetrate Moore's religious right. Moore will keep his evangelical, pro God Republican base in tact while trying to expand to main street, anti-tax Republicans. Riley does not want this race to get into a war of who can “out-God” the other because Moore will win that battle. You can't “out-God” Moore.
Therefore, Riley must keep GOP voters focused on who is the most qualified to govern the state.
There is still the possibility of a third candidate in the Republican Primary. State Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb is seriously considering the race. She reportedly has raised over $1 million in contributions. Her primary sponsor is SouthTrust Bank tycoon Wallace Malone. She also has her own personal money.
She spent a considerable amount of her own money winning her Senate seat a few years ago. Smith is a banker and former mayor. She has an impeccable conservative voting record on business and religious issues.
As stated earlier, I do not believe you can out religious Moore, that amen corner is taken and that is about 40 percent of the Republican Primary vote. Therefore, Smith's candidacy would hurt Riley more than Moore.
Riley appears to have mended fences within the business community. They have decided he is the least dangerous of the four. Therefore they have coalesced behind him out of default.
The two Democratic face cards, Baxley and Siegelman, have been campaigning just as tirelessly as Riley and Moore. Lucy has been traveling the state for the past four years with her eye on the governor's office. Speculation is that her fundraising numbers will be almost as good as Riley's.
It will be interesting to see how Siegelman's fundraising has fared with the cloud of indictment hanging over his head. Regardless of how he looks in polling or fundraising he will run. The only thing which will preclude his entry will be if he is in jail or dead.
The year 2006 should prove to be an exciting and interesting year.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers' column appears weekly in 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.