March 08, 2012

Weekly Column This Week in Alabama Politics

We are less than one week away from the primary. That is singular for one primary. We are now a one party state when it comes to statewide politics. The only reason that anyone will ask for a Democratic ballot Tuesday is if they want to vote for a local candidate for judge or county commissioner.

Only one Democrat qualified to run for any of the statewide judicial races this year. Harry Lyon is a perennial joke candidate who simply puts his name on the ballot every year. The last time he was on the ballot he received half a percentage point of the vote.

In short the Democratic Party in Alabama may not be dead, but it certainly is on life support. Barack Obama heading the ticket in Alabama may be the final straw. You could say that Obama will drive the final nail into the coffin of the Democratic Party in Alabama in 2012.

There are five seats on the State Supreme Court up for election Tuesday. Because there are no Democrats running, winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election. Running for reelection unopposed are Justices Jim Main, Lyn Stuart and Glenn Murdock. Justice Tom Woodall is retiring. Vying for his post are Civil Appeals Court Judge Tommy Bryan and Anniston Circuit Court Judge Debra Jones. Bryan has been running for over a year and has lined up financial support, as well as traditional GOP group endorsements. Judge Jones was a last minute entry. The winner will go on the high court for a six year term.

The marquee race on the ballot Tuesday is the contest for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. It is a three man battle for the state’s top judicial position. This race is difficult to predict. Polling indicates that most GOP voters are undecided on their choice.

Early indications gave the nod to former Attorney General Charlie Graddick. Graddick is currently the presiding Circuit Judge in his native Mobile County. He was elected twice as Attorney General of Alabama in 1978 and 1982. After eight years as attorney general he ran for governor in one of the most unforgettable races in state history.

Graddick beat Bill Baxley in the Democratic Primary runoff only to have his victory stolen from him in a backroom of Democratic Party regulars. They arrogantly gave the nomination to Baxley. This unbelievable undemocratic play backfired on those elitist Democrats. This brazen chicanery so incensed Alabamians sense of fair play that they elected an unknown Republican named Guy Hunt. That 1986 disaster was the beginning of the end of the Alabama Democratic Party.

It has been 25 years since Graddick’s last statewide race. However, there are probably a good many Alabamians who remember how Graddick was robbed. You have to believe that he has a reservoir of pent up support left over from 1986. Polls reveal that voters still remember his name and this race is really no more than a name identification contest.

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore is the paradox in this race. He, like Graddick, should benefit from some vestige of sympathy. He is asking for his old job back that he lost over the Ten Commandments. He was impeached from office in 2003 for refusing to abide by a federal court order that made him remove his granite monument of the Ten Commandments that he placed in the lobby of the state judicial building. Moore would have been in a better position to recapture his old post if he had patiently run for the Supreme Court after his removal. However, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. He has lost badly in two attempts for governor and is now thought of as an also ran candidate.

Chuck Malone is the incumbent but is essentially an unknown candidate. He was appointed last year by his longtime friend Gov. Robert Bentley. He was a Circuit Judge in Tuscaloosa before joining Bentley’s cabinet and then was appointed to the high court by Bentley.

The only other state race is for PSC President. Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is expected to capture the GOP contest and coast on to victory in the November General Election.

Civil Appeals Court Judges Craig Pittman, Terri Thomas and Terry Moore not only do not have Democratic opposition, they have no Republican opponents either. The same is true for Criminal Appeals Judges Sam Welch, Liles Burke and Michael Joiner.

You will also have the opportunity to vote for your choice for the Republican nominee for President on Tuesday.

See you next week.