Predicting the politics of 2007
Published 1:41 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007
As the dust settles on the old year and we begin the new I will share a few political observations from the 2006 election year.
First of all I was amazed at the accuracy of the polling data. In my years of following politics I have never seen such amazing prognostications on the Alabama political scene. Reliable tracking polls the day before the election predicted a 58 to 42 Riley margin of victory over Lucy Baxley and that is what happened.
The same polls indicated that Jim Folsom Jr. and Luther Strange were locked in a dead heat for Lt. Governor and a flip of the coin would decide the race. They ended in a virtual tie with Folsom garnering a mere 20,000 vote advantage. They had Sue Bell Cobb with a 3-point lead over Drayton Nabers in the Chief Justice race and that is how it ended.
There is no truer adage than money talks in political races. The fact is that whoever has and spends the most money will usually win. This truism prevailed in all the statewide races in Alabama. Riley outspent Baxley over 4 to 1. In the two high profile races that Democrats won the Democrat was able to raise almost as much money as the Republican. That is why Jim Folsom Jr. and Sue Bell Cobb were successful.
Alabamians definitely know how to split their ticket. They went down the state ballot crossing over to elect Democrats and Republicans even with Bob Riley riding a freight train to a landslide victory. They denied him the mandate he wanted. He asked for a Republican Legislature and Republican Lt. Governor as his mate. They refused.
In fact, Alabamians either consciously or subconsciously have chosen to split their ticket and pick a Lt. Governor from an opposite party to serve alongside the Governor for the past 20 years.
Guy Hunt became the first modern era Republican Governor in 1986. Jim Folsom Jr. was elected as a Democrat for Lt. Governor that year. In 1990 the same two men were elected, Hunt as a Republican and Folsom as a Democrat. In 1994 Fob James won as a Republican for Governor and Alabama selected Don Siegelman, a Democrat, as Lt. Governor. In 1998 Siegelman beat James for Governor but Alabama liked the separation and chose a Republican, Steve Windom, as Lt. Governor. In 2002 Riley rode his horse to victory as Governor and we chose Lucy Baxley, a Democrat, as Lt. Governor. Now we have Riley, a Republican Governor, and Folsom, a Democrat, back again for another term as Lt. Governor.
As we begin 2007 the two big stories developing are the burgeoning Junior College scandal and the internal battle for control of the State Senate. The depth of graft and corruption discovered in the Junior College System is of a giant magnitude. The lid will blow this year. The battle royale over control of the Senate will play out next week at the organizational session which begins on Tuesday. This war is real and is for a lot of marbles. The result will dictate who is in power and determine whether the Governor will have any say or power in the budgeting process.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist whose column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.