Alabama untouched by democratic earthquake

Published 3:53 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2006

By By Steve Flowers
When the votes were counted on November 7th the results revealed very few surprises. Bob Riley was reelected Governor. Eight out of nine members of the Supreme Court are Republicans. The GOP also claimed five of the seven constitutional offices including Governor. Five of our seven members of Congress are Republican and both of our U.S. Senators. You add to the fact that Alabama has voted for a Republican for President nine out of eleven of the last Presidential races. In the last 42 years only once have we voted for a Democrat, Georgian Jimmy Carter in 1976, and then only narrowly.
We are a Republican state. The national Democratic earthquake that occurred that day did not reach Alabama. We, along with our sister southern states, are now the heart and soul of the Republican Party. We are the hardcore base of the GOP. The once solid south is still the solid south. The difference is we are solidly Republican.
We are Republican but we are only Republican on the national and state levels. We are Democratic on the local level and as Tip O'Neill said, "all politics is local." That saying was destroyed on November 7th nationwide.
The Democratic tidal wave that took over Congress did not adhere to all politics is local. The 2006 election victory for Democrats was nationalized.
It crystallized against George W. Bush and the Iraq war.
In Alabama our Legislature is Democratic. The numbers are clear. The House of Representatives remains 62 Democrats and 43 Republicans. The election saw no change in party lineup. A Democrat, Seth Hammett, will remain as Speaker
of the House. The Senate saw a two seat Republican gain. This does not significantly change the makeup. The Democrats dominate the upper chamber 23 to 12. However, the November election did not resolve the issue of who will control the Alabama Senate. When the dust settled on November 8th only half the battle had been fought. The real battle began the next day. This war has
been raging for years and the outcome of the November election was the beginning of the tug of war for control which will culminate in mid January during the organizational session.
Gov. Riley is striving to be a part of the organization. It is vital to his having any power as Governor. He was completely left out of the budget process during his first term by the Democratic House and Senate because the Legislature controls the purse strings of state government and thus controls the real power. Riley will have very little say in the selection of Speaker of the House and may also be left out of the wrangling for Senate control.
However, he possibly might be able to influence the outcome to his favor. Riley could conceivably cut a deal with five or six Democrats and create a coup that could give him and the twelve Republican Senators a seat at the table during the upcoming quadrenium.
There were six Democrats that organized with the Republicans four years ago.
All six of these Democrats are still in the Senate. Several of them were targeted by the Republicans and had to fight for reelection and this may have left a bad taste in their mouth. There are a handful who are not loyal to party or anything else and will make a deal with the devil if it benefits them. Therefore it is anybody's guess as to what is going to happen with the war of the Senate. However, one thing is certain after eight years of reign as the monarch of the upper chamber Sen. Lowell Barron realized he had too may detractors to retain his position of power and has removed himself from the fray. The struggle for control which has raged throughout his tenure left him with too many battle scars to survive. The Democratic majority will have to coalesce around a less controversial compromise comrade in order to keep the Pro Tem post in their grasps.
There will be a lot of politicking going on among the 35 members of the State Senate between now and the organizational session which begins January9th. Powerful special interests will also be hard at work. The final outcome will not be determined until the second week in January. In the meantime if you hear some cracking sounds during the holidays it is probably some Senator's arm being twisted in Montgomery.
Merry Christmas.
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

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