Ballot offers interesting twist in 2006
Published 8:01 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2006
By By Steve Flowers
The Governor's race is the marquee show of this year's political races in Alabama. However, there are a host of companion contests on the ballot. It will be a virtual smorgasbord that should whet the appetite of every political junkie.
There has been an interesting twist that has developed in the Republican gubernatorial primary contest. An early poll in 2005 done by the Mobile Register and the University of South Alabama showed Roy Moore ahead of Bob Riley 43 to 35, but by year end the results had flip flopped dramatically. The same polling institute revealed that Riley had a commanding 44 to 25 percent lead over Moore. Most other polls conclude the same result. However Moore's stalwarts may be hard to poll. The unknown is who will show up at the polls. Moore supporters are confident that their voters are more dedicated than Riley's.
On the Democratic side Lucy Baxley is confident that if she can get by the much maligned Don Siegelman in the Democratic Primary that she will coast to victory over Bob Riley or Roy Moore in November. Early numbers in 2005 suggested that might be the case. However the most recent polling shows that she is in a dead heat with Riley and in fact Riley may have a slight lead.
It appears that Riley has gotten his focus and his handling of the hurricane problems last year along with a positive administration of state government has given him a tremendous bump in polling. In addition, the Republican Party now has a slight edge in preference among Alabama voters. This preference is more pronounced in Presidential years. However it still exists in off years although it may be a strong Democratic year nationwide. President Bush's unfavorable ratings are at a historical high and in the Virginia Governor's race in November a Democrat won by six points over a Republican endorsed by Bush. Virginia is considered as Republican a state as Alabama. In addition, the overwhelming majority of Alabama's local officials, including probate judges, sheriffs, and legislators, are Democrats and they are all on the ballot this year.
On the state level you have five of the nine seats on the Supreme Court up for grabs. The most interesting will be the race for Chief Justice. When Gov. Riley took office in January 2003 he brought with him a blue ribbon cabinet made up of many of the premier businessmen in Alabama. Chosen for the top post of Finance Director was Drayton Nabers. Nabers had previously been CEO of Birmingham's Protective Life. He has enjoyed a stellar career in business and civic involvement. When Roy Moore was removed as Chief Justice, Riley placed Nabers, an Ivy League educated lawyer in the position. Nabers has never been tested politically, but he will be in November. Appeals Court Judge Sue Bell Cobb is one of the best thoroughbreds the Democrats have in the stable. She is confident, smart, and savvy. This one will be a horserace.
The top law enforcement office in Alabama is up for grabs and the race for Attorney General of Alabama will be worth watching. Again a Riley appointee will be up against a proven tough Democrat. Gov. Riley appointed a young Troy King Attorney General when Bill Pryor left the office to take a federal judgeship. King had almost no credentials for the job. His only qualifications were that he had a law degree and was friends with the Governor's son. He had never tried a case. By comparison his Democratic opponent, Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, has been a prosecutor for nearly a decade. However, King has campaigned nonstop since his selection. If qualifications mattered this one would be a cakewalk for Tyson, but like the Chief Justice race, this one should be handicapped a tossup.
The Democrats should retain the Agriculture Commissioner's job with Ron Sparks and the Republicans should keep the Treasurer's post with incumbent Kay Ivey. The Secretary of State race should be a good one. State Auditor Beth Chapman, a Republican, sensing that incumbent Nancy Worley, a Democrat, is vulnerable will try to unseat her. It should be a fun year.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.