Moore should have followed Artur Davis

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2004

After Bobby Singleton defeated Thomas Moore in our special state senate election, the usual calls began.

First, callers asked what happened (good or bad). Second, they wondered how more than 1,000 people can vote in one county’s absentee box and why Alabama’s attorney general — whomever it is at the time — won’t do something about perceived voter fraud in this region.

(Whether or not there’s voter fraud can’t be determined until a court makes a ruling, one way or the other. It does seem strange, you must admit, that Hale County has more than 1,000 people who always have somewhere else to be on Election Day.)

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Absentee ballots aren’t always as crooked as we make them appear. In fact, they can — and should — be used as honest and effective campaign tactics by politicians who seek support from nursing home residents and college students.

In that sense, a politician is nave not to work for absentee votes, and I’d bet a candy cane both Singleton and Moore implemented the strategy. There’s no shame in that.

Oh, but there does seem to be shame — with glaring regularity — in our absentee boxes. In recent Greensboro elections, for instance, there have been documented absentee voters who used blatantly wrong addresses as their voting location. A couple of people apparently voted from a home unfit for a rodent.

So why hasn’t Attorney General Troy King and his staff investigated the apparent illegalities? Well, they have — kind of. They started the investigation before Hurricane Ivan hit the state in September.

At that point, King pulled all his agents from the Hale County case and went on a hunt for fraudulent companies looking to make a buck off hurricane victims. When that operation subsided, King and his agents jumped head-first into an investigation of the gambling operations around the state. Who knows what’s next.

In my opinion, King will follow the footsteps of most attorneys general before him: He won’t get close to prosecuting voter fraud in Hale or Perry or Greene or anywhere else around here. Quite bluntly, King — along with most state officials — has little interest in waging full-scale investigations on majority-black voting districts. Call it what you will, but an investigation into Hale or Perry county voting is a political nightmare for statewide officials and most will choose the road more politically safe.

If you consider that an idiotic presumption (which some will), take a look at the record. King’s only voter fraud conviction came in Tallapoosa County in June 2004. In that case, a Dadeville woman admitted to voting illegally in the general and constitutional amendment election in November 2002.

Former Attorney General Bill Pryor dabbled in the irregularities in August 2002. From 1996-2002, he got almost a dozen convictions in Wilcox, Greene and Hale counties.

You can fuss until your absent in the face about this problem, but if anyone believes Singleton won this election because of absentee boxes, that person is wrong.

Singleton didn’t win this election; Moore lost it.

Understand a couple of things first: I like Thomas Moore as a person and a politician. He’s one of the most sincere public officials I’ve ever met, and he’s always honest and considerate in his decisions. In that sense, Moore has earned a reputation for being a unifier.

Unfortunately for Moore, he (and those advising him) apparently forgot why he was the front-runner heading into Tuesday’s run-off against Singleton.

If you compare Moore to another politician, it’s fair to say he and U.S. Rep. Artur Davis are a lot alike. They’re both considered unifiers. They both find away to reach across party and racial lines. Most importantly, they have earned the trust of a large voting base — black and white.

When Davis beat former U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard more than three years ago, Davis did a masterful job defining his voter base. He knew he could win a majority of the white vote and most of the moderate black vote.

Davis didn’t bother to battle Hilliard for the divisive votes. While Hilliard was considered a political figure who stirred the race issue and rallied the masses, Davis presented voters with a peaceful, forward-thinking candidate.

In the end, Davis beat Hilliard by double-digit figures, and he did so by appealing (and advertising) to his clearly defined voting base.

So what did Moore do? He chased Singleton around the district, trying to appeal to the same voters Singleton wrapped up months ago.

For example, Moore spent about $5,800 in radio advertising for this run-off (compared to $670 in the primary). Of that money, most went to radio stations in Marion, Uniontown, York and WQZZ in Tuscaloosa.

According to expenditures reported to the state of Alabama, Moore spent no advertising dollars in The Tuscaloosa News and minimal amounts in local newspapers. He even advertised in the Centreville newspaper during the primary, but didn’t do so for the run-off.

Singleton’s strategy was brilliant — and it was old fashioned. Singleton knew his voter base and went after them with loud commercials. Moore, for some reason, thought his only chance at victory came if Singleton’s supporters jumped ship.

Moore should have captained his own boat. The same yacht Artur Davis purchased a few years ago.

Personally, I hope he gets back in the water one day and gives it another shot.