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Elections for 2010 go beyond governor

By By Steve Flowers
The Governor’s Race and other constitutional offices are not the only posts up for grabs this year. We will have a smorgasbord buffet to choose from on the ballot. All 67 sheriffs are up for election, as well as all 140 legislative seats. We also have three seats on the Supreme Court on the menu.
All three of these Supreme Court seats are held by Republicans. In fact, eight of the nine justices are Republicans. Two of the justices, Tom Parker and Mike Bolin, are seeking reelection. The third seat will be open. Republican Justice Patti Smith, who was elected six years ago, has chosen not to seek a second term. It will be a classic battle between business and plaintiff trial lawyers.
The business community has coalesced around Republican Criminal Court of Appeals Judge Kelli Wise. The Democrats were hoping to draft former Lauderdale County Judge Deborah Paseur, who ran a very close race with Greg Shaw in 2008. However, they have yet to draft a strong candidate. In recent years Alabama voters appear to favor a female in a judge’s race. They also tend to lean toward Republicans for the bench. This will be a good race to watch.
Former Finance Director, Jim Main, was appointed to Shaw’s seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals by Gov. Riley. Main will be seeking election to a full term on his own. He should be favored to win this low profile judgeship.
Montgomery City Councilwoman, Martha Roby, appears to be the chosen Republican to face Congressman Bobby Bright in the 2nd District. Bright was elected two years ago and has campaigned full time everyday since his election. He has voted so often with the Republicans that even the GOP party officials in the district are supporting him. He has been the most conservative member of the 70 member Blue Dog Democratic Caucus in Washington. Bright will be tough to beat.
The open 7th District congressional seat being vacated by Artur Davis will have a bevy of candidates. It will be filled by a Democrat, probably from Jefferson County. The field includes Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Smoot, Birmingham lawyers Terri Sowell and Martha Bozeman, and State Representative Earl Hilliard, Jr.
However, the primary focus of both political parties and special interest groups will be the state legislative races. The GOP hopes to take control of one, if not both, chambers. The House currently has 61 Democrats and 44 Republicans.
If only nine seats change hands, the GOP captures the majority. The House members they are targeting to knock off are Henry White of Athens, Ron Grantland of Hartselle, James Fields of Hanceville, Jeff McLaughlin of Guntersville, Jimmy Martin of Clanton, Steve Hurst of Munford, Terry Spicer of Elba and Betty Carol Graham of Alexander City.
In addition, several House members are seeking to move up to the Senate. Locy Baker and Billy Beasley are running for the seat of retiring State Senator Myron Penn. These two House seats should remain Democratic as will the Senate seat. Two GOP legislators, Cam Ward and Gerald Allen, are also leaving their House seats to run for the Senate. These seats should remain Republican. Therefore, the House takeover is possible.
The Senate could wind up close also. The GOP supposedly has raised a lot of money to try to takeover the Senate. The seats they have targeted are Zeb Little of Cullman, Ted Little of Auburn, Hinton Mitchem of Albertville, Phil Poole of Moundville, Marc Keahey of Grove Hill and Kim Benefield of Roanoke. Benefield will be challenged by former Senator Gerald Dial. Dial represented that district for 28 years and lost a close race to Benefield four years ago. He will be favored to take back that seat as a Republican. Hinton Mitchem may not seek reelection. If that is the case, a Republican will be favored. Veteran Montgomery State Senator Larry Dixon may also not run for reelection but that district will remain Republican.
A cursory glance of the seats targeted by the GOP in their takeover strategy reveals an obvious belief that North Alabama is the most fertile ground for GOP growth. This strategy may also be based on the GOP’s belief that Artur Davis will be the Democratic nominee for governor and that his candidacy will sink all Democratic candidates on the ballot. There is indeed alarm among North Alabama Democrats that this could be the case.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.