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The Political Fray

What's done is done, but what's to be?

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
(Part 2 of 3)
Tuesday's election results delivered a few answers but more questions.

We turn to our very best political detectives who have sifted through the returns for clues to explain the Mobile/Baldwin and Alabama electorate's motives.

"One thing that I think happened on Tuesday was the re-emergence of a Democrat 'farm team' for offices (Sessions' Senate seat and all State offices) four years down the road. Over recent elections, many had thought that Statewide Dems did not have a deep bench.

Regardless of election results in November, I would argue that Ron Sparks is poised for future opportunities due to his 'upset' of Artur Davis.

Perhaps under the radar due to its North Alabama location, the nomination of Steve Raby for AL-5 brings a long time respected Dem operative to the forefront. While the Republicans seemed poised to make gains across Alabama, the AL-5 race is more competitive as an open race and I could argue that he is the favorite to replace Parker Griffith. With a very nice political resume, Steve could become someone who is a Dem leader of the future.

James Anderson is getting good marks for his AG's race.  Again, depending on November's results and his performance between now and then, he could join the bench as a potential leader."
-- SFO

"I think Bradley will struggle with Bentley. James will keep poking Bradley and he will rise to the bait. This election seems to show more and more that he is not as gubernatorial as he projects.

James Anderson (assuming he wins the run-off) will do well against Luther. James A. campaigns well because people like him. I think the ticket of Sparks, Folsom Jr. and Anderson will do well. They can tap into the traditional Dem base and appeal to cross-over support.

I do not think the Davis result is an indicator of misgivings over Obama. Davis hid or retreated from what should have been his core base. He alienated the black community with his opposition to health care and he did NOTHING to try to repair that vote in that community. Dr. (Joe) Reed and his people will campaign hard for the Dem ticket in November and I believe you will see a huge upswing in the turnout. I am going to work hard in the grassroots voter turnout side of things.

I have said all along that Mark (Erwin) relied too heavily on the advice of folks that are out of touch with this community. There was nobody to tell him something different from what he was hearing from the inner circle. Other less conservative Republicans helped launch Ashley's campaign and she is a tested prosecutor. I think Mark needs to go practice law for awhile and regroup. He is a good guy and deserved better, although his judgment where Nodine is concerned left a great deal to be desired.

I care not to discuss HYT. He should leave town.

Local Dems are disgruntled with John (Tyson) and I am afraid it will get worse. I expect him to step down so Ashley can be somewhat like an incumbent and that makes it even more difficult for Don Foster. I struggle because John is a friend but he has hurt us locally as it adds to the infighting. He might even become a Republican.

In County Commission D2 I like the Buffkin/Cochran campaign as it brings into play a reasonable minded candidate who will govern; not posture or be tied to the flavor of the moment issue nor be the talking head of someone else. Ralph is well-respected across party lines and would be a great choice given the prior occupant of that office. Dean needs to go next and I hope Gary Tanner will run against him in two years."
-- DEM

"No crystal ball, of course. But, here is my take:

Bentley is a wild card and I have no idea how to handicap his chances. But, having said that, it seems he would have to raise a lot of money to seriously challenge Byrne. James has the money and can raise more.
Because of that, I think he is the more credible challenger. But there is certainly a freshness in Bentley which will give him something to build on if he can afford to do it.

AG race. I think Giles will withdraw, allowing Anderson to conserve resources and mount a strong campaign against Big Luther. I see a campaign similar to Senator Heflin's race against another Mountain Brook Republican (Bill Cabaniss) about twenty years ago. Like Heflin, Anderson has never been a member of a country club. He is a real lawyer and a genuine outdoors man. I know: I have hunted with him in a duck blind with wet feet in 21
degree weather. He had as big a grin and was as happy as the black lab who broke the ice to retrieve ducks. That will sell.

Artur Davis. 'None of the above' to your questions. First, Sparks appealed to the Democratic base and the issues which define the party. Davis just ignored his base issues. I don't sense any disillusionment with Obama in that result, only with Artur himself. And, Reed called it
right. It will always be difficult, if not impossible, for a black candidate to win in Alabama and if the candidate ignores black voters the way Artur did, he can't even get the nomination.

Folsom will go by Ivey like a freight train."
-- ASD

"Robert Bentley will hold on to the number two spot despite the concerted effort between the Byrne camp and members of GOP leadership to drag out the process.  Byrne is campaigning while Tim and Robert are reviewing party bylaws and state statutes regarding the situation.

On top of it, GOP leaders are now trying to prevent crossover votes in the runoff in an effort clearly designed to help the anointed Bradley Byrne. It isn't a bad idea in theory, but you can't change the rules in the fourth quarter of the game. You must consider that in a lot of rural counties, many conservatives voted in the Democratic primaries to vote in local elections such as sheriff, coroner, etc. They did so thinking they would ultimately to get to vote in a Republican run-off that everyone knew was inevitable. This rule change could cause voter backlash towards the party in November.

However, even in consideration of all of the coordinated conspiring between Byrne and state party leadership, Dr. Robert Bentley will win the run-off. Roy Moore supporters and the majority of Tim James' supporters will align with Bentley. Evangelicals will never support Bradley Byrne, period. Bentley as the nominee is the best situation for the party as I am convinced that Byrne can't beat Sparks. Byrne cannot relate to blue collar Wal-Mart conservatives in this state and at the end of the day, a lot of rural conservatives would cross over and vote for Sparks. Bentley will defeat Sparks in November and is going to be the next Governor of Alabama.

Mark Erwin was beaten so badly as a result of the Nodine situation. The race was probably close prior to this. It's too bad as I am convinced Mark is a good guy that just used bad judgment. He can recover and he has a future somewhere in politics.

Ralph Buffkin is a very good man and would probably be a good commissioner. However, there is growing concern about Cochran's influence and involvement in other races. I have already heard several comments that Sam would be Sheriff and Commissioner if Buffkin wins.  It has the potential to hurt Ralph. Ultimately, I think Connie Hudson's proven track record wins out and she will be the next County Commissioner. "
-- GNR

"Loser - Alabama Democrats.

One of the predominant storylines coming out of Tuesday’s primary has made AL Democrats a LOSER. As a result of Davis’s sound thumping, too many are inaccurately reporting that this demonstrates the chokehold that Hubbert/Reed/ADC/New South still have on election outcomes. While their dominance in the state legislature cannot be denied and their support for Sparks certainly didn’t hurt, a look back at the ’08 AL Presidential Primary shows this assessment is dead wrong. For the most part, these groups (everyone except New South) supported HRC who was beaten soundly by Obama. The fact is Davis lost his race fair and square."

"Local thoughts only:

1) Erwin got clobbered by $250,000 in fees from the commission and then, with Nodine hanging around his neck, sank like a stone. Of course the commercial 'are you safer now than you were 14 years ago' was a joke. Other loser in this fiasco was Rusty Johnston.

2) Nodine's replacement? Who knows. Buffkin has support on the Hill but Sandy Stimpson (supporting Pete Riehm) is well-respected, Jack Tillman (the former sheriff may be quietly in Buffkin's camp, though he has a delicate political path to trod with his nephew's wife Carmen Tillman in the race; also retired teacher and Semmes favorite Ken Megginson, now on the school board, is likely to announce his candidacy soon) is stale potato chips.

3) How should incumbent Baldwin County commissioners fill their coming idle hours? Well, I think the prospect of the gang of three going to China, chasing battery powered cars while the worst environmental disaster hits the coast has two of the challengers salivating. Gruenloh keeps trying to link Dorsey to a sewer business but won't be able to do it. Only one candidate in that race has taken sewer money and his name is Wayne. Do the Dyas voters go to James or are they suffering PTSD from the battering they took on Tuesday? Haven't done the math, but if election night memory serves, if James gets his people to the polls and the Dyas vote break 60-40 to James (good possibility given the anti-incumbent spirit lurking around Baldwin County lately) Bob wins. 

4) Judy (Newcomb) learned when you alienate the cops and the lawyers and the judges and you aren't from an old time political family with built in support, you will go down in flames. It didn't help matters to have David Whetstone, who got her the job in the first place, going around telling everyone he had 'blood on his hands' from securing her that post. David Green outspent Hallie Dixon by at least 4 to 1 but her grass roots support is so deep that she should have more supporters ready to go to the polls in July. So I guess we will have the question of whether a candidate with a lot of cash can buy an election in Baldwin County.

5) (Mobile County District Attorney John) Tyson step down? And do what? Shocked if he leaves that position.

6) Herman Thomas - Can't anyone usually get 33% of the vote just by having his name on the ballot? Going, going ... gone.
-- EKD

Any post-election day analysis of the carnage?

The only shock to me was (Robert) Bentley. I know he had Tuscaloosa/north Alabama support, but I guess people got tired of the Byrne-James negativism and liked his positive message. None of the other outcomes surprised me.

Popular opinion seems to be that Bradley Byrne would beat Tim James but struggle with Dr. Robert Bentley.

I really don’t know much about Bentley, but I understand he has taken $10,000 from the AEA and there are some questionable votes in the state Legislature. However, that being said, I believe he will be formidable. I think Bradley beats James, but it may be really close with Bentley.

Luther lost to a Dem last time in the general with a late fade (late fade due to the great folksy TV ad that Folsom put out labeling Luther as a country clubber and himself as a good old boy who likes to hunt and fish!) and Anderson is a resourceful pol (assuming he beats Giles Perkins). Is it so necessarily a Republican year that even Jim Folsom Jr. is an underdog to Kay Ivey?

We shall see. Her only problem is the PACT. It remains to be seen if she can overcome that one. I believe that this may be a Republican year around the country. I also thought that it would be the “throw the bums out year.”  But, unfortunately, no one wants to throw their bums out so consequently, all of the bums keep their jobs!

Does the Democrat Party's rejection of Artur suggest Dem misgivings over Obama?

Maybe some of the rejection.

Blind loyalty to Joe Reed, ADC et al?

Absolutely! Every 'Democratic' preacher in the state was paid to tell their following to vote against Artur because he didn’t support Healthcare and was not in line with the two black Democratic groups in Alabama.

A burning desire to buy lottery tickets at the corner convenience store? 

Yes, and some of this as well. 

How could Erwin get beat that badly?

He absolutely lost his mind when he went to Nodine’s home to get the guns (and most likely the drugs)! I think even his supporters jumped ship when he showed such a lack of judgment, plus his association with Nodine hurt him terribly.

I would almost think Herman Thomas would've gotten as many votes for DA in the GOP primary.

I don’t think many Republicans would vote for Spanky!

Does Erwin's defeat forebode more tectonic shifting of the local political ground below the surface and behind the scenes?

I don’t think so. But I do think Jon Gray is toast!

Speaking of HYT, is he done?

Finally, yes!

Is a 2-1 whipping a fatal showing or signs of political life in the ol' batsman yet?

He should take his paddles and move to San Francisco!  He might be Mayor there one day! He and Pelosi might become close friends and discuss the “WORD!”

Will John Tyson step aside to let Riley appoint Ashley Rich in advance of the general election?

I haven’t thought of that, but if the Bingo issue should get back to the front page (I doubt it because of the oil spill), then politically it would be a good move for Riley, Tyson (and Rich).

Should local Dems be disgruntled with Tyson for yet another thumb in the eye to the party?

I don’t hang out with Dems so I don’t know what they are saying or thinking!

What about County Commission D2 with Ralph Buffkin/Sam Cochran vs. Connie Hudson/Bess Rich vs. Pete Riehm/Sandy Stimpson vs. Carmen Tillman/43 Semmes haircuts a day? Despite a short course, the candidates will have lots of help in generating a decent turnout. Would that favor Riehm who as the freshest candidate in the field may benefit from an anti-incumbency mood?

I don’t know because I haven’t met Riehm. I understand that he is bright and would represent the County well, but I will have to meet him to make my own judgment.  This is going to be an interesting race and I am caught in the middle of it! Unfortunately."
-- BCJ

"It was not necessarily a vote for Luther but a vote against King. 

Blind loyalty to the old guard in the Democratic party is what Artur was trying to defeat. He may have just planted the seeds for four years from now.

Erwin did not shoot himself in the foot. He BLEW it off, then cut his throat and for good measure took cyanide. 

Erwin was blinded by Nodine and the money he was making as Nodine's attorney.

HYT will get a job teaching at Bishop State next to his cousin, then run for something else.

Tyson's too self-centered to step down early. Rich had support from Tyson and Sam Cochran.

Commissioner District 2  is going to be a cluster pile!

Judy Newcomb micromanaged every aspect of that office. You cannot keep power players happy if you can't run an office."
-- NSB


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