Does movie predict the future?

Published 9:35 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2006

By Staff
When Bob Riley took office in January of 2003 he had just survived one of the most bruising gubernatorial elections in history. His razor thin margin of victory over Don Siegelman hardly gave him a mandate for major accomplishment in state government. He and Siegelman had so pulverized each other in campaign ads that most voters wondered why both were not in jail and ironically a cloud was brewing over Siegelman and he indeed would be heading for jail.
As Riley, a businessman, took the reigns of state government his only political experience had been his previous six years of service in congress. He had no experience in state government and both branches of the legislature were overwhelmingly democratic. Although partisan acrimony was not as pronounced as it was in Washington, partisanship had arrived in Montgomery and the democratic legislature and the powers that controlled the legislature did not want a republican governor to succeed.
For reasons that nobody can figure out Riley immediately set out to commit political suicide. Both the general fund and education fund were in the red and facing a crisis. Even though the general public did not believe this perennial cry of wolf Riley saw the figures and did buy into the crisis mentality.
At the end of Riley's first year in office he appeared to be a lame duck. Most pundits wrote his chances for reelection as slim or none. Siegelman, who had never stopped running, was exuberant. Fellow republicans were also eyeing the 2006 Governor's race to succeed Riley. The Governor's office had been a musical chair since 1994. No incumbent governor had won reelection in the last three races and this one seemed to be on course to follow that trend.
The most logical aspirant to take Riley out was Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley who had served two successful terms as State Treasurer and had been elected the first female lieutenant governor in state history. She received the most votes of any statewide candidate in her 2002 race for the state's second highest office and had great name identification. She was simply known as &#8220Lucy.”
Lucy sat back and quietly watched Riley self-destruct. She took no positions on the tax debacle or anything else. She did not have to because there was no power in the Lt. Governor's office.
Riley, to his credit, took his setback in stride with great resilience. He quickly recovered and his next three years were very republican.
Once the dust settled after the June primaries all indications from polling and otherwise showed that Riley would be tough to beat in the fall. The first polls showed him with a double digit lead over Lucy. As the summer ended and the fall campaign began in September his lead in the polls had grown to 20 points. It went as high as 25 points as late as mid October. Riley's insurmountable lead in the polls transpired into an avalanche of a campaign fundraising advantage. His positive, happy, confident personality and charisma were captured and reflected in his ads. It resulted in a landslide victory over Democrat Lucy Baxley.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at <>.

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