Siegelman is modern-day Wallace

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In last week’s column we compared the 2006 Governor’s Race to a horserace. Alluding to horserace jargon we compared the four face cards to horses and handicapped them. In the comparisons one of the horses, Don Siegelman, was referred to as the thoroughbred in the race. If using the measuring stick of being born to be a politician and devoting your life to the goal of being Governor, then Siegelman is the only one in the race with that pedigree.

Siegelman is the only one of the four who can be labeled a true political animal. We like to refer to someone with this dedication to political life as having the George Wallace syndrome. A political animal who has the George Wallace syndrome is totally focused on the brass ring. They totally disregard money, family, social life, and the normal things that most people strive for in their life to be a political star. The only person who rivals George Wallace in this regard is Don Siegelman.

Wallace was on the ballot for Governor of Alabama or President virtually every election year his entire adult life, from 1958-1982. He was on the ballot five times for Governor and four times for President. Siegelman has been on a statewide ballot in Alabama every four years since 1978 for a total of seven times. He has been elected to two four-year terms as Secretary of State, one term as Attorney General, one term as Lt. Governor, one term as Governor, and has lost two races for Governor.

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If Wallace is the Man of War of Alabama politics then Siegelman is our Citation. History bears out the fact that they are the true thoroughbreds of Alabama politics over the past century. With seven statewide races under his belt Siegelman has been on more statewide ballots than his other three opponents combined. Lucy Baxley has three, Bob Riley and Roy Moore have one each.

If you are a true follower of political animals, whether you like him or not, you have to admire Siegelman’s devotion and dedication to the political arena. He is a valiant fighter and tireless worker.

Those of us who follow politics have developed a special appreciation for Siegelman’s toughness and determination. In my lifetime I have never seen anybody go through the adversity that Siegelman has had thrown at him over the past year while at the same time keeping their head up and their eye on the prize the way Siegelman has. I am not sure Wallace would have stayed the course.

Siegelman went through a trial that lasted months and prevailed but as soon as that one was over he faced the rumor of a second indictment in Montgomery Federal Court which kept a cloud over his candidacy for months. Then last October the other shoe dropped in Montgomery when he was hit with a massive indictment. The Birmingham News in bold print on October 27th blared “Indicted Again.”

Siegelman never slowed down and never looked back. He held a press conference calling the indictment political and a bunch of horse feathers. Like a real thoroughbred he had blinders on with true grit and tenacity. He was in Greenville the next day campaigning full speed ahead. He gave me a copy of a poll that showed he had gained three points after the indictment and that he had an insurmountable lead in the Democratic Primary.

Siegelman is indeed openly betting that the most loyal Democratic Primary voters, African Americans, will stick with him through thick and thin. They have been in his corner in every state race he has run. However, this vote is no longer monolithic. They are quickly disseminating into normal voting patterns, the way the Irish and Italians did earlier this century. In addition the black leadership in the state has made it clear to Siegelman that they love him as a friend but that they want a Democrat to win the Governor’s race and the perception at this point is that Lucy Baxley may be the better candidate against a Republican.

Siegelman is injured, similar to a great thoroughbred horse who has come up lame from a serious leg injury and is limping, but like most great thoroughbreds his head is held high and he is working tirelessly to recuperate. If Siegelman comes back to win this one he will be the Seabiscuit of Alabama politics.

– Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 66 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at