While the Presidential race raged last year the Alabama political pot was boiling and getting ready to stew in 2006. The ’06 campaigns are on the horizon and the early jockeying has begun.

Gov. Riley has had the unique opportunity to fill the two highest legal offices in the state, Attorney General and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. Both offices are coveted prizes and both are up for grabs in ’06. Young Troy King, Riley’s choice for Attorney General, came out of the gate with a barrage of press conferences staking out a right wing position obviously trying to outflank any conservative challenge within the Republican Party. King will probably get opposition in the Primary and also from a Democrat in the General Election. Speculation is that former Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts, a Roy Moore ally, will go after King in the Primary. Butts is a recent GOP convert who was elected several times to the Court as a Democrat. He lost an eyelash decision to Bill Pryor in the 1998 Attorney General’s race, also as a Democrat. Butts also has his eye on the Lieutenant Governor’s race. Republican Baldwin County District Attorney, Dave Whetstone, may join the fra! y in the Attorney General’s race. He will make an issue about the fact that King has never tried a criminal case. Whetstone has been a District Attorney for over two decades and has plenty of trial experience. Several Democratic District Attorneys throughout the State are considering the Attorney General’s race. The most mentioned Democratic candidates are State Senator Zeb Little from Cullman and Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, Jr.

Riley’s appointment of Drayton Nabers to the Chief Justice position vacated by the removal of Roy Moore last year did not sit well with the religious right.

They wanted Riley to appoint Moore back to the position, which Riley could have legally done. They feel like Riley gave them the back of their hand twice. First when he did not stand behind Moore in his monument battle and secondly when he appointed Nabers rather than Moore. Nabers is an Ivy League educated lawyer who was CEO of Birmingham based Protective Life and is a business conservative.

The Alabama Republican Party is split almost evenly down the middle between the business Republicans and the religious/social Republicans. This battle plays out most obviously in Supreme Court races. The best example would be last year’s primary fight between pro business candidate Jean Brown and pro religious conservative Tom Parker, who eked out a victory. The Nabers race could be a replay. Many observers believe that Roy Moore himself will take Nabers on in the Primary, if not Moore himself then his anointed candidate, probably Tom Parker. It is a good bet that either Moore or Parker will run against Nabers. If Nabers escapes the Republican Primary battle, he will face a tough Democratic challenge. Sue Bell Cobb, a sitting Court of Appeals Judge and one of the most popular Democratic horses in the stable, will probably run for Chief Justice. This makes for a precarious journey for Nabers who has never run for public office.

The grand prize in 2006 is the Governor’s Race. On the Republican side it is not certain as to whether Gov. Riley will seek reelection. For the time being it is assumed he is in the race. Riley is perceived as vulnerable, which means several thoroughbreds are lining up for the race. If Roy Moore does not run for his old position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court it is expected that he will run for Governor. Tim James, who ran in 2002, wants to run again. James received about 10% of the vote in the Republican Primary and would be hard pressed to get more than that in ’06 if Moore runs. They would be dipping out of the same well and you cannot out Roy Moore, the real Roy Moore.

The Democrats believe they will take back the Governor’s chair in 2006. Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley is running and will start as the favorite. House Speaker Seth Hammett has pulled out, but former Governor Jim Folsom may be interested. He has the best campaigner in the State by his side, his wife Marsha Folsom. Many Democratic partisans are urging Dr. Paul Hubbert to try again, but he disdains their enticements. Many believe that unless he is dead or under indictment Don Siegelman will answer the bell. Alabama politics never ends.