A glance back at Alabama politics in 2007
By By Steve Flowers
As 2007 comes to an end let's look back at what happened politically in Alabama this year.
The partisan bickering in the Alabama Senate climaxed on the final day of the annual legislative session with Republican Senator Charles Bishop slugging Democrat Lowell Barron in the face on the floor of the senate. It was seen on newscasts and internet sites all over the world. Indeed it was the blow seen round the world.
This partisan acrimony in the senate created an atmosphere that allowed for the passage of no significant legislation. The budgets passed miraculously in the last hours of the three and a half month stalemated session. The signs do not bode well for the 2008 Session when the minority leader, Jabo Waggoner, says "you are going to see more of the same."
Former Gov. Don Siegelman was sentenced to prison and fined along with ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Both were sent to federal prisons. Much was written about Siegelman being the target of a scurrilous republican Justice Department scandal to politically prosecute democratic officials. The U.S. House held hearings on the Justice Department accusations and Siegelman was the most high profile official supposedly railroaded for political purposes. This saga continues and the fat lady has yet to sing.
It is unlikely that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn Siegelman's conviction. However it is not out of the realm of possibility that if a democrat wins the White House in November Siegelman could be pardoned.
Revelations on the massive junior college corruption scandal continued to unravel all year. Federal investigators are uncovering unbelievably brazen acts of fraud, embezzlement, and nepotism never before seen in modern day Alabama politics.
If the chief architect and mastermind Roy Johnson does not go to prison it will be a travesty of justice. This scandal is so bold it would make a good movie. It is hard to imagine that in this day and time the actors thought they could get away with such outlandish shenanigans.
The $3.5 billion lawsuit verdict against Exxon Mobile that the State won in Circuit Court several years ago was overturned by the State Supreme Court in November. The much anticipated and wished for windfall will not be there to save the general fund.
There are two good statewide races possibly looming for next year. Presidential years are generally quiet for state races. However, the Presidency of the Public Service Commission could be interesting. Incumbent Jim Sullivan has been in the post 24 years and is seeking reelection. Sullivan will be challenged by former Lt. Gov. and 2006 gubernatorial aspirant Lucy Baxley. She is recovering from a massive stroke suffered on Thanksgiving Day of 2006 after her defeat in the Governor's Race.
Jim Main, the Governor's Finance Director, is seeking the Supreme Court seat being vacated by his fellow Republican Harold See. Main will face Court of Appeals Judge Greg Shaw and possibly others in the Republican Primary. Lauderdale County Judge Deborah Paseur will probably be the Democratic standard bearer for the only vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Our junior senator, Jeff Sessions, appears to be a prohibitive favorite to garner a third term in the senate next year. His likely democratic opponent is an unknown and under-funded State Senator named Vivian Figures from Mobile.
2007 saw the passing of four Alabama political icons. Two legendary Alabama Attorney Generals from the 1960's passed away in late summer. Richmond Flowers died in Dothan at 88 and McDonald Gallion in Montgomery at 94. In August Walter Johnsey, one of the most powerful players behind the scenes for over four decades, died at 83 in Birmingham.
Bob Ingram, who covered Alabama politics for over 60 years passed away in October in Montgomery at 81. Ingram began his distinguished journalism career after serving as a marine in the South Pacific during WWII and graduating from his beloved Auburn University. Ingram spent decades covering state politics for the Montgomery Advertiser. He later became known throughout central and southeast Alabama for his television political analysis of state politics. He spent six decades as a print reporter and three decades as a telecast and print reporter. He also authored two books on Alabama politics. He was a columnist in over twenty weekly newspapers. I grew up reading Bob Ingram. He was still my favorite columnist up to his death. His knowledge of state political history was unparalleled.
See you next week and Happy New Year!
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.