Lieutenant governor's race surprise in primary

Published 2:38 am Wednesday, June 21, 2006

By Staff
If there was one surprise race in the June 6 primaries it was in the Republican lieutenant governor's contest. However, polls indicated three weeks earlier that an upset was in the making. George Wallace Jr. entered the race as the heavy favorite in a race where inherent name identification is very important.
However, he did not foresee the Alabama business community giving a blank check to Big Luther Strange in that race. That money propelled Strange to a big vote. In fact he beat Wallace so badly that there was barely a runoff. Strange outdistanced Wallace 48 percent to 34 percent with Mo Brooks garnering 16 percent, mostly Tennessee Valley votes.
This lead may be insurmountable for Wallace to overcome in the July 18 runoff, especially because Strange has all the money and momentum. Wallace's inability to raise money has been his Achilles heel in all of his major races. He has lost two previous contests one lieutenant governor and one for Congress where he was outspent.
A Strange victory does not bode well for Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. who entered the race at the last minute after seeing polls that he could beat Wallace in a head-to-head race.
Folsom also felt like he could get significant financial backing from the business community against Wallace. This will not be the case if Strange is his November opponent. Strange is obviously the darling of the business community. A Strange vs. Folsom November horserace should be handicapped as a dead heat. 
Troy King, Riley's appointed attorney general, had a very impressive victory over his GOP opponent Mark Montiel.
In contrast, his Democratic opponent in the November general election, Mobile District Attorney John Tyson Jr., had an unimpressive win over a nut candidate. Tyson only defeated avowed atheist Larry Darby 55 percent to 45 percent. This King vs. Tyson race should be a tossup in the fall.
The court races were all in the Republican Primary. Our Supreme Court is now all Republican. The major Democratic challengers were unopposed in their primaries.
The Republican judicial contests boiled down to a classic big business vs. religious right wing contest with the business community putting a lot of money on the incumbent Republican judges and it paid off. They all won big.
The business slate was headed by Riley appointed Chief Justice Drayton Nabers who beat Roy Moore chief disciple Tom Parker 60 percent to 40 percent. Incumbent Champ Lyons beat Moore candidate Ben Hand 60 percent to 40 percent and Justice Tom Woodall and Lyn Stuart trounced their right wing opponents with 72 percent to 28 percent margins in the Primary. 
One of the most impressive judicial wins was Glenn Murdock's 62 percent victory over two strong female opponents to capture the GOP nomination for the only open seat on the Supreme Court.
He will face Democrat John England in November for retiring Bernard Harwoods' seat. It will be interesting to see if a Democrat can penetrate the solid 9 out of 9 Republican hold on the state's highest court.
Perry Hooper Jr. led the Republican field for the open PSC seat held by Wallace who had to opt to run for reelection to the PSC or seek the lieutenant governor's post. If Wallace loses to Strange on July 18 he will be out of a job.
Hooper will face-off against former Jefferson County State Sen. John Amari in the runoff. Hooper benefited from the popularity of his father, Hooper to lead with 40 percent to Amari's 32 percent and Jack Hornady's 28 percent.
Hooper has been a Republican leader for decades when it was not popular to be a Republican. He was also the first Republican elected as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Hooper should prevail in the runoff in July but will face a tough opponent in Democrat Susan Parker in the November general election, who is a former state auditor and U.S. Senate candidate. This race will be worth watching.
See you next week.

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