Political Poker: Governor’s race thrown a curveball

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Moses voting for a Democrat? Who would have thunk it?

While no one every proclaimed Alabama politics to be normal, the week’s events in the gubernatorial election have brought smiles to some and shock to others. Demopolis attorney Billy Copeland can’t help but smile.

Late last week, famed Republican campaigner Charlton Heston visited Alabama. The gun advocate, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Moses on the big screen, spent most of his time with the GOP nominee for governor, Bob Riley. Two days later, incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman announced that Heston had written a letter of endorsement to the Democrat.

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Copeland, obviously, is chairman of the Marengo County Democrats. He said Heston’s long support and position with the National Rifle Association, and his endorsement of Siegelman could change the governor’s race in the next five weeks.

The Riley campaign admitted they were thrown for a loop after Heston’s announcement. But Marty Connors, the GOP state chairman, said he smelled a rat after the endorsement.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the NRA did in fact endorse Siegelman in his race against Riley.

Riley is not concerned about the endorsement.

The NRA endorsed Riley during his congressional career for his voting record on 2nd Amendment issues and donated to his campaigns.

The NRA’s endorsement of a Democrat is nothing new. In fact, the NRA supported Earl Hilliard in the U.S. Congressional primary. Hilliard was defeated by Artur Davis in a June 25 run-off.

While voters sort out the endorsements, Copeland and the Democratic Party were scheduled to host three statewide candidates on Tuesday night. Nancy Worley, candidate for Secretary of State; Stephen Black, candidate for state treasurer; and James Anderson, candidate for the Alabama Supreme Court, were all part of a meet-and-greet at Copeland’s office.

Money also became a key issue in the governor’s race this week. With six weeks left in the campaign, Riley has raised $6.5 million. Siegelman, on the other hand, has $2.6 million left in his warchest.