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Don’t forget state’s important races on Nov. 4

By By Steve Flowers
Now that the primaries are over we have our menu selection for the general election in the fall. The presidential race has overshadowed all of the other races. However, we do have some interesting state races on the Nov. 4 ballot, although it is not as combative a year as the gubernatorial years. We Alabamians long for and get more involved in gubernatorial races than presidential contests. I suppose our forefathers predicted this when they decided to put the majority of the big state races on the ballot in gubernatorial years. In two years we will elect a new governor as well as all constitutional offices and all 140 seats in the legislature.
However, we do have a rarity this year in that we have two open congressional seats up for grabs. Both are considered tossups and are being targeted by both national parties. The second district congressional seat has been in the Republican column for 44 years. It has been considered a safe GOP seat by both national parties. The district, which covers the southeastern corner of the state, voted 67 percent for George Bush in 2004. This district includes the wiregrass, which is where 16-year retiring congressman Terry Everett hails from. It also covers parts of Montgomery and the fast growing suburban counties of Autauga and Elmore.
There were six Republicans vying for the nomination. Combined they spent over $3 million. The eventual nominee Jay Love, a Montgomery State Representative and Subway franchise developer, spent $1 million, mostly of his own money, to best runner-up State Senator Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb who also spent $1 million. They were pitted in a July runoff campaign that became negative and costly. Smith trailed Love badly in the fist primary, so she fired her campaign team and hired her fellow State Senator Scott Beason during the runoff.
Beason who has earned a reputation for being nasty and negative went to work. Beason has become the new king of mean in Alabama and does not let truth or veracity get in the way of his mission. His disingenuous approach did not work. Love fought back with his own attacks and prevailed.
On paper this district would appear to be Republican. However, the Democrats have fielded a good candidate in Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright. It is a Democratic year nationwide and, if the momentum dips into the deep south, this seat could flip. Bright is already receiving national Democratic dollars and is running a smart campaign. He has divorced himself from being the Mayor of Montgomery and is running as the Wiregrass candidate.
Bright was born in the Wiregrass and his story of being the 13th of 14 children born to a sharecropper is resonating more than being Mayor of Montgomery. This rural region relishes Bright’s Horatio Alger rags to riches story.
This will be a close race. It is considered a tossup. However, the largest growth areas of the district, Dothan on the southern edge and Autauga and Elmore on the north have become very Republican and have a large percentage of the votes.
The fifth district, which stretches along the northern tier of the state, has been Democratic for 100 years. It is the last bastion of white Democrats in the state. Bud Cramer has represented this area for 18 years as a conservative Democrat. Huntsville State Senator Parker Griffith, who is a retired 66 year old physician, is favored to retain this seat for the Democrats. Huntsville Republican Wayne Parker should make it a close race in his third attempt for this seat. However, close only counts in horseshoes and marbles.
The most important statewide race is for the open seat on the State Supreme Court. Republican Judge Harold See is retiring. The Republican nominee is Criminal Appeals Judge Greg Shaw. His Democratic opponent is Lauderdale County Judge Deborah Paseur. A Republican usually wins state judicial races in Alabama, especially in presidential years. The GOP candidate for president generally carries Alabama and provides some coattails to the state candidates on the ballot.
This GOP presidential coattail will give some impetus to Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh in the race for President of the Public Service Commission. She faces Democratic icon Lucy Baxley in this close contest. Lucy is still recovering from a massive and debilitating stroke she suffered shortly after her loss to Bob Riley in the 2006 Governor’s race. She can campaign only sparingly. Regardless of who wins the Lucy vs. Twinkle race, the PSC will become all female. The other two members of the PSC are also women.
It will be fun to watch the homestretch over the next 10 weeks.
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 contacted at www.steveflowers.us.