State appears evenly divided in gubernatorial

Published 5:40 am Wednesday, July 12, 2006

By By Steve Flowers
In late May, two weeks prior to the primary, my column posed the question as to which primary, the Democratic or Republican, would attract the most voters. My belief was that for the first time in history the Republican primary would get the most primary participants. This did not materialize, even though the Republican primary overwhelmingly had the most attractive statewide races. All of the contested judicial races, as well as the hotly contested Lt. Governor's race, were on the GOP side. However, the numbers were 465,000 Democratic ballots vs. 460,000 Republican voters, close indeed. The state appears exactly evenly divided in gubernatorial years, although, as I suggested earlier, the Democratic numbers were probably driven more by local races. Remember what Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local."
Several of these local races were pivotal State Senate races. The war over the Senate became fierce, bitter, and expensive. Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron came after three enemy Democrats with a vengeance. The amount of money spent to defeat Senators Jimmy Holley, Jim Pruitt and Gerald Dial was unprecedented. The ferocious bitterness of the campaigns was as ungodly as the lavishness of the unlimited spending to defeat these three fellow Democrats who had sided with the Republicans on organization of the Senate. Barron's efforts were successful in unseating Dial, who had over 30 years in the Senate. Pruitt and Holley prevailed, both garnering 64% of the vote. A very impressive showing against the kind of onslaught they endured. Both are wily veterans and will not forget Barron's attempt to defeat them for a long time. Holley himself told me one day a saying about politics I will never forget, "If you attempt to slay the king you better make sure you kill him."
Holley and Pruitt were both seatmates of mine at one time in the Legislature. There districts made a wise choice by re-electing these two by a 2 to 1 margin. They both are very astute and very effective for their constituents. The acrimony in the Senate will be something to behold when they organize in January of 2007.
In other Senate action on the Democratic side, besides the defeat of Gerald Dial by Kim Benefield, another longtime Senator Sundra Escott lost her urban Jefferson County seat to Rep. Linda Coleman. This should not effect the organization as both would probably have supported Barron. However, the Benefield upset of Dial is a Barron pickup.
On the Republican side 30-year veteran Senator Jack Biddle was knocked off by Rep. Scott Beason in their north Jefferson/St. Clair suburban district. Veteran Montgomery State Senator Larry Dixon won an impressive 58% victory over two opponents in his Montgomery/Elmore district. Rep. Rusty Glover and former Rep. Chris Pringle are in a runoff for the seat of retiring Sen. Hap Myers in Mobile. This is one of the most Republican districts in the State. The primary winner will be unopposed in November.
Several questions were up in the air to be decided by the primary vote besides the question of which primary will get the most votes. Another was whether black Alabama voters are still dependant upon the sample ballots distributed by their leadership. Both the New South Coalition and Alabama Democratic Conferences endorsed Lucy Baxley. These ballot endorsements were indeed important to Lucy. However it appears that it paid off more in rural areas then urban.
Another interesting observation from the primary was the amazing accuracy of the polling data. The polls were unbelievably on target for every major race, including Governor, Lt. Governor, and the judicial races.
The final question that will be answered by this Tuesday's runoff will be whether the Wallace name is still magic in Alabama politics. Odds are that newcomer Luther Strange will put an end to George Wallace Jr.'s political career. The Republican Lt. Governor runoff between Luther Strange and George Wallace Jr. is the marquee attraction for the Tuesday primary. Strange led Wallace 48% to 33%. Barring a miracle comeback by Wallace, Strange will end the Wallace legacy in Alabama politics and strangely enough he will have the opportunity to end a second legendary name in November when he faces Jim Folsom, Jr. If Luther Strange, a political newcomer, slays Wallace Jr. and Folsom Jr. he will be a name to reckon with in the future.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 66 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at <>

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