Airwaves plastered with campaign ads
Published 11:46 am Wednesday, October 18, 2006
By By Steve Flowers
With the general election less than three weeks away the airwaves are becoming bombarded with political ads, both positive and negative. Unfortunately you may see more of the latter because negative ads are the most effective.
Our judicial races are high profile and expensive. In fact, between 1993 and 2004 Alabama led the nation in campaign fundraising for Supreme Court candidates. This was due in large part to Alabama being a haven for astronomical jury verdicts which affected national corporations. Therefore national money flowed into our Supreme Court races.
The plaintiff trial lawyers in turn tried to protect their turf which upped the ante. Business money has finally prevailed. Currently all nine members of our Supreme Court are republicans and pro business. However, this has not stopped the flow of money into these races.
Alabama is currently one of only seven states in the country that elects judges. You will see a lot of money and subsequently lots of advertisements spent on the four Supreme Court seats up for grabs Nov. 7.
Alabamians have fallen into a pattern of favoring republicans to sit on the Supreme Court. Some of the GOP takeover of the Court can be attributed to the fact that five of the nine seats are up for election during presidential election years. In these years the tendency of Alabamians to vote overwhelmingly for a republican presidential candidate spills over into the judicial races with the republican court candidate being bolstered by straight ticket GOP voting. You definitely do not want to be on the ticket as a down ballot democrat in a presidential election year in Alabama. However it is different in a gubernatorial year. The democrats have a shot at possibly penetrating the total ironclad GOP lock on the high court.
The best race is for Chief Justice. Republican Drayton Nabers Jr. has been on the court for just over a year. He was appointed by Gov. Riley to fill the remainder of the term of ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore. Nabers holds a law degree from Yale but has been in business rather than law during his career. He was President and CEO of Birmingham based Protective Life. He retired and joined Gov. Riley's cabinet as Finance Director and then was appointed to the Chief Justice position.
In contrast his democratic opponent, Sue Bell Cobb, has immense judicial experience. She is immanently more qualified to hold a judicial post. She has been a judge for more than twenty years. She also is a good campaigner. Judge Cobb is bright and personable and is one of the best horses in the democratic stable. She may well be outspent by Nabers who has the solid financial backing of the Birmingham business community. They have become accustomed to pumping big bucks into the judicial races. Nabers himself has amassed considerable wealth in business over the years.
In the other three Supreme Court races Republican Champ Lyons, who is very well qualified, should be favored over Democrat Aubrey Ford in Place 1. In Place 2 incumbent Republican Lyn Stuart has shown that she is a proven vote getter. Like Sue Bell Cobb she has come up through the ranks as a district judge who moved up to the Supreme Court six years ago and has done an excellent job. Her democratic opponent Al Johnson is well qualified but he will be badly outspent. Stuart is the prohibitive favorite. In Place 3, republican incumbent Tom Woodall is the heavy favorite to win reelection over Democrat Gwendolyn Kennedy. He may be the largest vote getter in the judicial races. You could not have gotten a better draw than to get an opponent who is a democrat named Kennedy in a judicial race in Alabama.
The second best race will be between Republican Glen Murdock and Democrat John England for Place 4 on the Supreme Court. This is an open seat. Justice Bernard Harwood is retiring. This will be a classic big business vs. trial lawyer battle. Murdock will be backed heavily by business and England will be bankrolled by the trial lawyers.
These four races will be interesting to watch. If the democrats do not break the republican control of the court this year they may never. We will see in 20 days.
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/> .