Widespread political changes seen in past year
The year 2004 has been an interesting year for Republican Governor Bob Riley. There is no question that he has worked hard to resurrect his base after destroying it in 2003 with his tax proposal. Governor Riley has campaigned all over the state, primarily in Republican Party meetings, and has only been surpassed by Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley in his efforts to press the flesh and cut ribbons. It appears that both have their eye on the 2006 Governors race.
Governor Riley gave the impression, after the overwhelming defeat of his tax proposal, that he was uninterested in another term. However, this year he has given observers a different impression. Governor Riley appears to want another term. His chief confidant and quasi Governor is his son Rob Riley. Rob tells potential contributors that his father is definitely running for reelection.
It is uncertain and maybe doubtful that the religious right will take Governor Riley back into the fold. He has not been their boy as expected. Governor Riley did not stand by Roy Moore during his removal from the bench. Furthermore, after Roy Moore’s removal from the bench Governor Riley could have reappointed Roy Moore back to his Supreme Court seat. Yet Governor Riley chose his Finance Director Drayton Nabers who is a business Republican and considered a moderate on social issues.
The religious right comprises at least half of the Republican primary voters and most polls show that if Roy Moore wants his old job back he can beat Drayton Nabers in 2006. However, Roy Moore may prefer to beat Governor Riley. At this point winning the Republican Primary for reelection may pose a problem for Governor Riley and even if he survives the GOP primary he still stands the big challenge of defeating Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley in the general election.
Riley will win his running battle with State GOP Chairman Marty Connors. Connors, a northern transplant who has bounced around for years as a Republican strategist, will be replaced next year. His successor may be one of Governor Riley’s aides, Twinkle Andress.
Speaking of purges, Ed Richardson has been the King of Purge at Auburn since he took the reigns as Interim President of Auburn University at mid-year. He has fired everybody but the janitor.
The Democratic members of the State Senate replaced Senator Jeff Enfinger of Huntsville with Senator Zeb Little of Cullman at mid-year. Enfinger had irritated his fellow Democrats by being too cozy with Republican Senators, especially in the waning days of the Regular Session.
Our senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby appears to have dodged a bullet during the summer when he was accused of leaking classified CIA information to the media. It looked like a major investigation into the matter may develop. However, it failed to materialize and nothing has been mentioned about the CIA leak in months.
It is unknown to many Alabamians, but there is a direct link to Alabama politics and George W. Bush. That link being President Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove. Ever since George W. Bush’s entry into Texas politics, when he defeated Democrat Ann Richards in the race for Governor of Texas, Bush has had by his side political guru Karl Rove. Rove is considered a political genius and it is said that President Bush never makes a move or statement without Rove’s approval. About a decade ago the Texas Republicans loaned Rove to Alabama. Texas had a similar tort problem to Alabama’s and Rove had orchestrated a change in the Texas Supreme Court. As it turns out, Rove was the brains behind Alabama’s identical remedy. Rove came into Alabama and masterminded the Republican pro business takeover of the Alabama Supreme Court. He even accomplished the takeover without extensive negative advertising, which has been his trademark. For example, in the just completed Presidential Race 80 percent of all ads were negative or comparative.
Many interesting Mayor races developed during the summer balloting. Tony Petelos won the Hoover Mayor’s race. Loretta Spencer was reelected Mayor of Huntsville. Alex City elected its first female Mayor, Barbara Young, and Johnny Ford reclaimed the Mayor’s post in Tuskegee.
The Legislature lost two members during the year to cancer. Jeff Dolbare, a Democrat, and John Hawkins, a Republican. State Senator Charles Steele of Tuscaloosa resigned to take an administrative position.
Happy New Year!