• 50°

Money is essential in politics

There is an old political adage that says “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” It is usually a true and valid maxim because the candidate with the most money usually wins.

A more earthy expression might be that “money talks and anything else walks.” If these truisms exist then the primary contests for governor are not going to be close.

The early money reported in February gave Gov. Riley a 10-to-1 advantage over his Republican opponent Roy Moore. Riley had raised $3.8 million to Moore’s $310,000.

The same disparity exists on the Democratic side, where Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley out raised the beleaguered Don Siegelman 10 to 1.

She had $1.2 million and Siegelman had a paltry $100,000. Therefore, you would have to say that Riley and Baxley will be favored to win their respective primaries in three weeks and face each other in the November battle for the brass ring.

Early money success has given them both momentum.

There is another saying that is equally true and that is that “money begets money.” Their overwhelming leads in fundraising have spilled over into their polling numbers.

Neither Baxley nor Riley appear to be overconfident, they are both working at an indefatigable pace.

Speaking of overconfidence in a race, I am reminded of a quip make by the last flamboyant, colorful, outrageous, southern politician the former Governor of Louisiana Edwin Edwards.

When the press asked him about a poll late in his last campaign for governor, which showed him with a large and apparently insurmountable lead, his comment to the media was “yea, the only way old Edwin could lose this race is if you catch me in the bed with a dead woman or a live boy.”

I do not think you will see any comments like that from Baxley or Riley in the last weeks of the campaign.

The Riley vs. Moore race may not be close on the Republican side, but you might have a close race developing in the Lt. Governor’s race.

Again, if money is the measuring stick then first time candidate Luther Strange may be poised to upset George Wallace Jr. in the GOP Primary.

Strange, a longtime Washington lobbyist and Birmingham lawyer, has the solid backing of the state’s business community.

His February campaign report showed he had out raised Wallace by a 3 to 1 margin, $900,000 to $300,000, and indications are that he has widened this margin even more dramatically in the last two months, especially after Strange was endorsed by the powerful and deep-pocketed Business Council of Alabama.

Most experts early on predicted an easy win for Wallace in a race where it was expected that not much money could be raised because of the loss of power in the Lt. Governor’s post.

It was thought that Wallace’s inherited name identification would allow him to dominate his lesser-known opponents. However, Strange’s ability to raise big bucks has shed new light on this race’s outcome.

Political pros have for years suggested that George Jr. is not really big league material. Indeed he has lost his two major league contests, a 1990 third-place finish in the Lt. Governor’s race, where he lagged behind Don Siegelman and Ryan deGraffenreid Jr., and a 1992 loss to Terry Everett for Congress. Wallace changed to the Republican Party after these two defeats.

However, if you look at his decision in depth it may have been an ill-fated mistake. Wallace’s political fate has always hinged on his reliance on his father’s magical name.

However, Wallace Sr.’s major enemies were the well-heeled business Republicans who reside in the urban enclaves of Mountain Brook, Vestavia and Homewood in Birmingham and the similar silk stocking neighborhoods in Montgomery, Mobile, and Huntsville.

These voters are not George Wallace fans and they make up the core of Republican Primary voters.

The addition of Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks to the race could siphon off enough votes in the vote rich Tennessee Valley to throw this one into a runoff where money becomes even more important.

See you next week.

– 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 www.steveflowers.us.