Moore must legitimize candidacy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Last week, we talked about how incumbent Gov. Bob Riley can win – and lose – his primary election to challenger and ex-Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Where Riley must devote his entire campaign to get-out-and-vote efforts, Moore has greater concerns than voter turnout.

There’s no point in recapping Moore’s rise in state and national politics. His stand for the Ten Commandments has given him as much name recognition as any political figure in the South.

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That’s all well and good – name recognition accounts for about 60 percent of a candidate’s vote – but Moore can’t win the Republican primary with simple name recognition. Riley, according to polls released this week, has a strong base of support and Moore must figure out a way to steal a bloc of Riley’s votes.

Moore can win the Republican primary if he stays away from the Ten Commandments issue.

Don’t get me wrong, Moore can’t ditch the date he brought to the dance, and he must always keep his moral opinions in the backs of voters’ minds. But for Moore to be a serious candidate, he must develop a platform of “carnal” issues that proves he understands how state government operates.

So far, Moore has succeeded. He’s developed a platform that includes, among other things, a proposal to have the Alabama Legislature meet every other year – a practice that ended in the late 1970s.

He also has made trips around the state touting his opposition to gambling, increased taxes and same-sex marriages.

To a number of Republican voters, Moore simply isn’t a serious candidate yet. He can change that perception if he sticks to government issues – especially the idea of tax increases.

More than two years ago, Riley disenfranchised his voter base by supporting the largest tax increase in state history – a no-no in Republican quarters. Moore’s only chance to win hinges solely on his ability to reinvigorate that same anger on June 6, 2006, in the Republican primary. If Republican voters go to the polls next summer with Riley’s tax increase still on their minds, many of those voters will hesitate to support Riley. Their only other choice will be Moore.

Developing, and maintaining, a strictly business platform will determine Moore’s success in the Republican primary. Unfortunately, Moore must also develop a sense of trust with Alabama voters to stand any chance of election to the state’s highest office.

Many people have forgotten about Moore’s brief tenure in state government – though I presume Riley will remind voters in the coming months. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore’s responsibilities went far beyond ruling on legal cases. The chief justice is charged with administering all of the state’s courts. In essence, he is the CEO of courts, and if you ask any attorney or judge throughout Alabama, you’ll know that Moore failed miserably at the task.

During his tenure as chief justice, courts across the state were forced to lay off long-time employees because of mismanagement. For all practical purposes, Moore just did a bad job as an administrator.

If he wants to be the state’s next governor, Moore must somehow find a way to assure voters that he can manage state government. That’s a big question mark, based on his record as chief justice. Riley won’t dare attack Moore’s moral principles; Riley will attack Moore’s record as a government executive.

The biggest knock on Moore isn’t about religion; it’s about his seriousness as a political leader who understands how to administer state government. In order to win election, Moore faces a daunting task: He must assure voters that he can lead this state, not just preach to it.