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Candidates begin 15-week sprint to November

By By Steve Flowers
Now that the field has crystallized and the race for Governor is down to two people the bout will get down and dirty if recent elections are any indication. The fifteen week sprint to November 8th will be fun and interesting.
In erstwhile days of past George Wallace would hire professional gossipers to travel the state and spread vicious rumors about his opponent. Today we have the internet along with the always traditional gossip parlors such as coffee shops and barber and beauty shops.
Riley will have to attack Lucy with kid gloves in open warfare since she is a female opponent. However, gossip mongers have already started with the why doesn't she use her real name.
She has not been married to Bill Baxley in twenty years and she is now married to a man named Smith and also the one about look how poorly a woman Governor responds to a crisis. The female Governor of Louisiana handled the hurricane disaster abysmally.
The same purveyors of gossip hit Riley with the continuous tax man chat along with him being shallow and dimwitted and comparing him to George Bush. The truth is both are good people. We are fortunate in that either one will make a good Governor.
Lucy Baxley and Bob Riley are both common people who have done well with their lives. They are neither from privileged backgrounds. They both hail from rural Alabama which is easily detected in their speech accents. Lucy and Riley both speak with a distinct country twang instead of the more genteel aristocratic southern accents.
Riley's wife Patsy's twang would rival Tammy Wynette or Loretta Lynn. Riley is aware that country sells to the average Alabamian. He proudly displays his cowboy boots.
The race will boil down to the old 80/20 rule, 80% of the people have already decided who they will vote for. These are hardcore partisans either pure Democrat or solid Republican.
Many of the early undecideds have landed on one side or the other. Therefore there is a pool of about 20% truly undecided voters who the media experts for both sides will target.
It will be an extremely interesting and probably close race. It may be as close as 2002 when Riley edged Don Siegelman by just 3120 votes out of 1.3 million cast. Riley will also try to reverse a recent trend by Alabama voters who have defeated incumbent Governors in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
The loser will join Roy Moore and Don Siegelman in Buck's Pocket, the proverbial mythical graveyard for defeated gubernatorial candidates. The loser will probably return home never to enter politics again.
Lucy at 65 will probably enjoy her retirement years at the beach in Gulf Shores. Riley, 62, will return to his beloved home of Clay County.
As soon as the votes are counted on November 7th the pundits will begin their speculation as to who will run for Governor in 2010. First on more lists than any other will be Speaker of the House Seth Hammett.
The winner of the Lt. Governor's race, either Luther Strange or Jim Folsom Jr., will also be prominent in the early handicap sheet. Politics never ends in Alabama.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/>