Black voters will decide Siegelman's fate
One of the major issues surfacing in the governor's race is the annual reappraisal of property taxes. Prior to Gov. Riley's administration property tax reappraisals were done once every four years.
In March of 2003, two months after Riley took office, his administration ordered the reappraisals done every year.
Roy Moore, Riley's Republican opponent, has made this tax increase imposed by the governor an issue.
Moore says that Riley's administration ordered the annual reappraisals “without the consent of the people.” Moore harps on the issue constantly stating, “I don't think we need any more taxes. We've got plenty of taxes.” He also alludes to Riley's 2003 $1.2 billion tax increase package, which failed in a statewide referendum. Many of Riley's detractors call this a backdoor tax imposed by the governor.
Joining Moore in opposition to the Riley order is Democrat Don Siegelman, stating “Roy Moore and I see eye to eye on that issue.” Siegelman continued by declaring that his administration would rescind the revenue department directive.
He further stated that “working people need relief not new taxes.”
Lucy Baxley, Siegelman's Democratic opponent, has refused to take a position.
She said the issue is “easy for a candidate to stand on the outside and demagogue.” Riley argues that his administration is just enforcing the law.
This issue should be addressed by the Legislature but probably will not be done this year because it is an election year.
Siegelman continues to campaign undeterred by the cloud of federal indictment hovering over his campaign. He continues to hammer at the theme that the indictment is a Republican conspiracy to derail his gubernatorial campaign.
He harps on the “they are out to get me” theory to Democrats and primarily African American audiences. He is putting all of his efforts and eggs in the sympathy basket hoping that black voters will save his political life. He knows they comprise more than half of the Democratic primary voters. In fact his campaign is focused totally on winning the Democratic primary.
The two Republican face cards, Riley and Moore, are running the same campaign courting only GOP primary voters.
Democrat Baxley is the exception. She appears to stay on the same course she has sailed for the past two years. She speaks to civic groups made up of Independent and Republican voters telling them her life story and ignoring the issues.
Her theme is just “love Lucy.” This approach will bode well for Lucy in a general election campaign.
However, if she is not the Democratic nominee it will all be for naught. She is banking on the fact that Siegelman is too badly damaged by the federal indictments and is not a viable candidate.
This answer will indeed be decided by black voters and will boil down to whether they will vote with their hearts of their heads.
Siegelman's federal indictment in the Middle District may be more serious then he would like to think. He escaped a noose in Birmingham due no small part to an inept prosecutor and a very friendly judge.
In addition jurors made up of everyday Alabamians have a difficult time understanding the complexities of Medicaid fraud. However, in this current case you have garden variety understandable transgressions like taking an all-terrain vehicle as a gift.
Also Montgomery juries have a long history of convicting public officials.
It does not help Siegelman's case any that the federal prosecutors have also indicted Richard Scrushy in conjunction for fraud.
The vast majority of Alabamians are still in shock that Scrushy is not serving the rest of his life in federal prison for the monumental fraud perpetuated at Health South. Many of the jurors in the upcoming case would love for Scrushy to get his due. It will be hard not to convict Siegelman if they convict Scrushy.
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.