Hunt able to gain re-election
Published 11:02 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009
When Guy Hunt took office as the first Republican governor in 1987, not much was expected of him. After all, he had been elected only because of the backlash resulting from the handpicking of Bill Baxley over Charlie Graddick by the Democratic Party leadership.
Hunt was a simple man, a rural hard shell Baptist preacher. However, the Republican leadership realized they had been given a golden opportunity, so they seized the moment and surrounded Hunt with good people. Most Alabamians warmed to him. He worked hard to get to know the Legislature and put together a legislative majority comprised of Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Hunt also was a tireless campaigner. He began running for re-election the day he was sworn in. He traveled the state visiting every county and attending every event from the Peach Festival in Chilton County to Mardi Gras in Mobile. He even had a statewide train ride to celebrate the state’s birthday. His first term was surprisingly successful, especially from a public relations standpoint. Hunt would not be a pushover for re-election.
The powerful head of the Alabama Education Association, Paul Hubbert, figured that if everybody called him governor he may as well run. He had already become the most powerful lobbying force on Goat Hill. He had grown in power and prestige and built AEA into the strongest special interest group in Montgomery. However, he had pretty high negatives as a candidate.
Don Siegelman, after years of working up the ladder of secondary statewide offices, was ready for the big leagues. He longed for his shot at the brass ring he had coveted since his University of Alabama days as student government president.
Fob James was tired of his life of fishing at Gulf Shores and was ready for a comeback. He jumped into the Democratic primary. Tennessee Valley Congressman Ronnie Flippo left a safe seat he had served for ten years to make the race. Jasper coal magnate and state Sen. Charles Bishop also joined the fray.
Hunt, who was unchallenged in the Republican primary, sat back and saved his money. The Democrats had a tough and expensive family brawl. Whoever won would be beaten up and broke when it was over in late June and would have only five months to heal and replenish their war chest.
Hubbert led the Democratic field with 235,000 votes, getting the majority of black votes. Siegelman captured a portion of the black vote and finished second with 185,000. Fob finished a close third with about 160,000.
Hunt’s ability to save his campaign resources and lay low during the first half of the year held him in good stead. He beat Hubbert 52 to 48 in the November general election. Thus the first Republican governor of Alabama in 100 years also became the second GOP governor of the century by winning re-election in 1990.