Alabama governor's race ‘is on' but will be dull
Published 12:11 am Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The governor's race is on in Alabama. It is an every four-year event that we cherish and enjoy immensely. Years ago it was the biggest entertainment that our grandfathers had to look forward to for that year. There was no television, no Atlanta Braves, nothing but the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night.
We had colorful politicians like Big Jim Folsom who came to our county squares and won our hearts with country bands, humorous speeches, and populist appeal. At 6'9” and unbelievably uninhibited and fun loving, Big Jim was better than the circus.
Today it is duller. They raise money and get on TV and most of the ads are negative. Before it is all over you will probably believe all the gubernatorial candidates are three headed toads who don't pay their taxes, are soon headed for jail and spit on their mama's graves, but before you relegate them to rascals let me give them their just do.
The front-runners, Lucy Baxley, Don Siegelman, Roy Moore and Bob Riley are pretty good folks. All have withstood the scrutiny of running for high statewide office and all have shown that they are made of good stuff.
The most sterling would have to be Moore, but he has his detractors. Like most prominent politicians he is a lightning rod. You either love him or hate him. There is no middle ground.
George Wallace evoked this same emotion. Many sophisticated voters castigate Moore as a simpleton and a demagogue and feel that his election would bring embarrassment and ridicule to Alabama. That is true to a certain extent.
Moore has very little experience or credentials to be governor and he would make us look backward to the nation, but I would argue that in his heart he is not using his Ten Commandments stand for politics. People who have known him for years say he is sincere in his beliefs.
Very few people would stand firm for their position to the point of losing their $180,000 a year job and their retirement just for political gain.
I contend that Wallace would not have stood in the schoolhouse door in Tuscaloosa for segregation if he knew he would be impeached as governor for his actions.
Furthermore, Moore has had no moral lapse or scandals in his personal life that most televangelist and evangelical luminaries have had.
Gov. Bob Riley deserves accolades for his efforts as governor. Unlike most past governors there has been no hint of scandal or misdeeds. His administration has been clean as a whistle and extremely effective. He assembled the most blue ribbon cabinet in state history.
It is stock full of proven businessmen who do not need the state salary to live on. He enticed some of the state's most prestigious and successful people to serve in his cabinet and they have used their considerable talents to keep Alabama government afloat in trying economic times.
Without his expert team the state General Fund agencies would have gone under. However, his greatest display of character has got to be his proposing a constitutional amendment to pay for a bankrupt state government and looking into the eyes of his biggest 2002 campaign contributors and asking them to pay for it.
It was a Robin Hood altruistic plan that took from the rich, those who voted for him, and gave to the poor, those who did not vote for him. If that does not deserve a profile in courage award I do not know what does.
Baxley has served two terms as treasurer and one as lieutenant governor. There has never been one hint of scandal surrounding Baxley's public service in twelve years in office.
Granted she has been in jobs where not much public policy is set. Her biggest decision has been which bank gets state deposits, but she has done that fairly and above reproach. It seems that everybody loves Lucy.
Siegelman may be under scrutiny and indictment at this time but remember he has never been convicted of any crime and he has been in public office for nearly 30 years.
The state could do a lot worse than the primary candidates on the ballot next week. Remember that when you watch the ads.
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.