politics never ends

Published 3:02 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

By Staff
Politics never ends in Alabama. The governor’s race every four years is the brass ring and the speculation as to who will run and who will win starts early. The jockeying has begun and so has the handicapping of the favorites by the political insiders in Montgomery. Let me share with you a theory and indeed a trend that portends victory in the Alabama governor’s race.
A look at the history will reveal my prognosis. Obviously the intra party brawl between Democrats Bill Baxley and Charlie Graddick in 1986 was a factor. In fact, it was the only factor. When the Democra-tic party hierarchy went behind closed doors and chose Baxley to be the nominee, when he did not get the most votes, gave the election to an unknown Republican Guy Hunt. Alabamians reacted ferociously to this travesty of injustice and voted overwhelmingly for the first GOP governor since Reconstruction.
In 1990, the eventual Democratic nominee Paul Hubbert had to fight through a primary of heavyweights, including Don Siegelman, to get the nomination. He was so broke and beat up that Hunt won reelection.
Hubbert was determined to run again in 1994, even though Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. had ascended to the governor’s office after Guy Hunt was convicted. Folsom had to spend a ton of money to beat Hubbert in the primary. Fob James had token primary opposition and beat a battered Folsom by a slight margin in the general election. Most observers agree that a fresh Folsom would have won.
A contentious Democratic primary is looming between U.S. Rep. Artur Davis and Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. Neither will have a waltz to their party’s nomination.
Riley cannot run again and the growth of the Republican party creates the probability of a volatile primary on the GOP side.
The puzzling aspect of the 2010 governor’s race is the lack of participants on the Republican side, especially given the fact that the winner of the primary will probably emerge as the favorite.
Expect to see Bradley Byrne and Roy Moore enter the fray in the next few weeks. Byrne hopes to be the business community’s candidate. Moore hopes to garner the religious right. Tim James, the only announced candidate thus far, has worked tirelessly for the past 15 months to entrench support among both of these wings of the Republican party.
Regardless of how many join in the chase, remember my theory. The primary that gets the bitterest and nastiest will suffer in the fall.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist who served 16 years in the state legislature.