Election keeps the status quo
Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Even though last Tuesday was a watershed year for change on the national political scene the democratic midterm avalanche did not reach Alabama. Although we had a larger than normal turnout similar to the national trend, 50 percent in Alabama is of record proportions, our results revealed very little change. After the dust settled we found ourselves pretty much status quo.
The polling data this year has been amazingly accurate. The primary election in June saw the same pinpoint prognostications. The polls predicted a 58% to 42% Bob Riley victory in the Governor's race and those are precisely the numbers, an extremely impressive victory for the republican governor. Riley is the first Alabama governor to be reelected in the last four contests. The incumbent governor was turned out in 1994, 1998, and 2002. However, Riley's victory was long predicted.
Riley led his challenger, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, by a large margin in the polls all year and he used that lead to raise a staggering $12 million which dwarfed Baxley's $3 million and allowed him to swallow her like a whale swallowing a goldfish. Riley should have been jubilant on election night, but he seemed subdued and appeared to take his victory in stride. It was almost like he expected a larger margin or maybe his enthusiasm was dampened by his lack of coattails for his fellow republicans down the ballot. Sensing his victory was in the bag, Riley actually campaigned for other GOP candidates the last few days prior to the election but his efforts were not as successful as he had hoped.
Luther Strange, whose campaign for Lt. Governor was built around being a republican partner with Riley, came up short. Strange came out of the blue to win the republican nomination with lots of money and slick TV ads. He defeated a favored George Wallace Jr. in the GOP primary and took the same approach with democratic nominee Jim Folsom, Jr. However, Strange met a much tougher politician in Folsom who beat Strange at his own game. Unlike Wallace, Folsom knows the importance of fundraising and he knows how to raise money. He matched Strange dollar for dollar and eked out a razor thin victory with only 20,000 votes separating the two. I have to think that his daddy, the legendary “Big Jim” Folsom, got him those extra votes from the grave. Old Big Jim was beloved in the small hamlets and crossroads of rural Alabama and there are still some old codgers out in the country that voted for that Folsom name.
Folsom's win coupled with Sue Bell Cobb's defeat of Republican Drayton Nabers in the Chief Justice Race made the day a success for democrats. In addition to Jim Folsom and Sue Bell Cobb's major wins, democrats Ron Sparks, Jan Cook, and Susan Parker were able to secure impressive wins for Agriculture Commissioner and Public Service Commission. These five proved that democrats can win statewide, especially if you are a female democrat. The Democratic Party may now be a minority party in Alabama but they are not dead by any means. They dominate the Legislature.
Steve Flowers is an Alabama political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/> .