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Voter worries continue to be nation’s economy

By By Steve Flowers
All the national polling data this year points to the economy as being the major issue on voters’ minds. The prevailing issue of the War in Iraq is a distant second. However, you would never know that Alabama was even a part of the nation if you perused the ads in the congressional races this year.
The Republican congressional candidates are touting their Christian conservative values and pro-gun rhetoric, but basically ignoring the economic recession and the unpopular and controversial problem of Iraq, much less how to deal with the massive national debt incurred by the invasion and occupation of the Middle East country.
The most popular topic of attack has been illegal immigration. This issue is a hot ticket, especially in the Republican primaries. This is an issue that John McCain has flip-flopped on. He has heralded a soft position for years, but during the campaign he has taken a hard line.
McCain is truly a genuine American war hero. His Vietnam War heroism and captivity has come to life in documentaries. His experience evokes respect and sympathy towards his life and career. It is also nostalgic to reminisce and reflect on that time in our nation’s history. McCain will garner most of the veterans’ votes. There is always a tendency for war time veterans to stick together. There appears to be a silent bond between these soldiers. This seems to be especially true among marines, who seem to have a lifetime comradeship. This link is similar to the political loyalty bestowed on candidates who were members of the Church of Christ by North Alabama voters throughout the years.
The issue of illegal immigration has been a hallmark issue for Sen. Jeff Sessions. He is viewed nationwide as the most ardent and outspoken point man in the Senate for stopping illegal immigration by any means necessary. He appears often on national news talk shows, especially the Lou Dobbs Show.
On the state level, Gardendale State Senator Scott Beason has taken up the mantra and has staked out the issue to his advantage. Some observers predict that Beason has higher political ambitions and hopes to use the immigration issue as a springboard. Beason also bravely, but understandably, stood out as the only Senator to vote against passage of the Education Budget. He was like a voice in the wilderness when he stood up and said, “But it is not a balanced budget. It is predestined to go severely into proration.” The rest of the legislative body voted for passage knowing full well that Beason was right.
Another perennial issue that Republicans grab is the annual push for a voter ID bill. This topic gets front page attention every year, but the push has become more ardent and eminent after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled six to three to uphold a strict voter ID law in Indiana. It becomes even more of a hot topic after every election when there is an avalanche of absentee ballots being cast in Black Belt counties. In some places it is ludicrously pervasive. Sometimes more absentee votes are cast than normal votes. It is a great incumbent issue for Republican Secretary of State Beth Chapman and Republican Attorney General Troy King.
These two ambitions GOP politicians exploit the issue to the fullest. However, both have been the subject of ethical lapses themselves during the past year. Chapman has recently been accused of “double-dipping.” She runs a consulting business while serving in the fulltime position of Secretary of State.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom has come to life and shown some signs of ambition towards a probable run for Governor. He recently announced an initiative to build a freeway between Mobile and Florence through West Alabama. He launched the creation of a commission to plan the 300 mile road through the impoverished Black Belt region.
One only has to spend a little time in Montgomery to see the immense power that lobbyist have in the Legislative halls of the Capitol. The same power permeates the Washington scene. Many folks have asked me how the term lobbyist came into our vernacular. It was born in the lobby of the famous and luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Willard is located on Pennsylvania Avenue in view of the White House. President Ulysses Grant made the Willard his home away from home. Grant did not like the White House and he liked to get out in the evening. He would go to the lobby of the Willard Hotel almost every night for a cigar and drink. People would wait in the lobby until Grant got there and then talk to him informally about what it was they needed. They became known as lobbyists.
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.