As mentioned last week, two Democrats, Don Siegelman and Lucy Baxley, have geared up for the 2006 Governor’s Race. They will fight it out in the June Democratic Primary to face the nominee of the surging Republican Party.

The two expected face cards in the Republican Primary will be the ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore and Gov. Bob Riley. Although Gov. Riley has not shown his hand as of yet, it is expected that Riley will run but it is not certain. The growth of the Republican Party and the perceived weakness of Gov. Riley among his party faithful may invite several lesser known candidates to the Republican dance. However, they may come from the business side of the party rather than the religious right wing as Roy Moore has that wing nailed down. They would be hard pressed to out Roy Moore, the real Roy Moore.

Moore gives every indication that he wants to run against Riley. He was miffed by Riley’s lack of support in his monument battle. Moore really seems to dislike the Governor. His most pointed statements are aimed at Riley. Moore made a thinly veiled statement late last year indicating he planned to run for Governor and says he has received a lot of encouragement to make the race. He said “I’ll be praying about it and considering it.” Moore indicated that Riley’s decision on whether to seek re-election will not be a factor in his decision to run. Moore also said, “Nothing will play into my decision but what I feel God would have me do and what I feel the people of the State of Alabama need.”

Under state law, candidates can start raising campaign funds less than two months from now in June. Moore cavalierly dismissed the fundraising aspect of running for Governor by saying, “My running for public office does not depend on money. Most people in the state of Alabama know what I believe and profess.” Roy Moore would be the first person ever elected Governor without raising a lot of campaign money, but he is a unique candidate.

Gov. Riley acted like he wanted to be a one term governor his first year in office. However, in 2004 he gave a completely different look. He is working hard to resurrect his political base. The 2003 tax deal seems to haunt him, especially among hardcore traditional Republican voters. He also will not be able to raise the large amount of pro business money that he garnered against Siegelman in 2002. Many of Riley’s 2002 contributors were targeted to be the largest payers of his 2003 tax proposal. However, Riley may be the lesser of two evils if Moore or Siegelman are his opponents. Riley is a likeable fellow, a good campaigner, and as an incumbent Governor he should not be counted out. If Moore and Riley collide in the Republican Primary, it will be a donnybrook and a close call. It will depend on which other candidates enter the race. Actually a third, unknown, unscathed candidate would probably be the best candidate the Republicans could put forth.

Gov. Riley has obvious baggage from the tax debacle and many Republicans will not vote for him period, in June or November. Therefore, if he is the GOP standard bearer a good many conservatives will stay home. Likewise, Roy Moore has his detractors among old line, silk stocking, sophisticated Republicans. The more highly educated, high income, urban Republicans will not vote for Roy Moore under any circumstances. A good example would be a look back at the 1998 Governor’s Race. Fob James’ extreme and cartoonish actions caused the old enclaves of historic Republican voters, like Mountain Brook which generally vote 95% Republican, to turn their backs on him. These more sophisticated voters will vote for a Democrat in a New York minute if they believe the state will be embarrassed or ridiculed by someone they perceive as a demagogue.

Either one of the two Republican face cards are vulnerable to a Lucy Baxley in November because a good many leaning Republican voters will either stay home or crossover. The next year will be interesting and definitely worth watching.