Democrats gone bad
By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Political partisanship seems more rancorous than ever these days -- witness the fists and fur flying in the recent and mercifully concluded legislative session in Montgomery.
While political differences among voters of either party remain real and deep, there are apparently very few Democrats or Republicans who can, or particularly want to, boast of an unadulterated purity, i.e. never having voted for a candidate of the opposing party.
An informal, anecdotal survey of area politicos reveals:
"I'm a Democrat but I've never voted 'straight ticket.'
I vote for the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation. Between equal candidates, I would vote Democratic. If the better candidate is a Republican, they get my vote.
I supported Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. I still believe those were the correct decisions for the time.
Several state and local Republicans have my vote and support."
-- Chip Herrington,
unsuccessful Democratic nominee for juvenile judge
"I voted for (Gov. Bob) Riley, believe it or not. I loved (Democratic nominee) Lucy Baxley, but when Riley supported, and not just supported but emphatically supported, the tax initiative at the beginning of his first term, I made a commitment to myself to vote for him for re-election. It was critically important legislation, and a heroic gesture on his part, and an act in complete contradiction to his years as a rabid conservative Repub congressman. You have to reward people for taking a stand like that, even when you want the other person to win.
Pretty weird to vote for the winner, let me tell you."
-- Henry Brewster,
"I have voted for and supported people that I knew were Democrats but were running in non-partisan elections, such as municipal elections here in Alabama.
As far as partisan elections, I don't believe I have ever voted for a Democrat over a Republican. I think I recall voting for Fob James in the Democratic Primary back in 1978. But I voted for Guy Hunt in the general election that year. (Note, Please don't tell Bill Baxley that I was a 'crossover voter.')
I know that sounds a little inflexible, but I really got committed to Alabama politics in 1976 the night Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford for president. All of my friends at the University of Alabama were blindly voting for Carter because he was a 'Southern Democrat.' Whatever that defined ...... As a transplanted student from Cincinnati, Ohio, I really couldn't understand that. So that night, I decided I had to get involved in helping bring a two-party system to this state.
As such, over the last 31 years, I felt it a betrayal to my college-born mission to vote for a Democrat. I was voting for change, for competition.
I will confess, however, that there have been a number of Republicans I have not voted for. Just skipped that race entirely.
Now that a two-party system has arrived here in Alabama, I guess I could refrain from that original mission, but it is now the philosophical differences between the two parties that keep me voting the way I do, not just the desire to have the vibrancy and new ideas that partisanship generates."
-- Marty Connors,
former GOP state chairman
"I voted for a Republican for the first time in my life when I voted for Bob Riley for governor in his second term. I did so because I admired his leadership on tax reform and his (although failed) attempt to increase funding for state public services; that is, for his acting like a Democrat."
-- Chris McFadyen,
"No. I have refrained from casting a ballot in certain elections."
-- Billy Kimbrough,
U.S. Attorney during the Carter administration
"I never did it, but (Judge) Rusty (Johnston) and I handled the lawsuit to void the party loyalty oath in the Republican primaries."
-- Mike Druhan,
"I was raised in the Dem (machine) wards of Jersey City and voting Republican is seen as a severe character flaw.
I've only voted for a Republican three times in my life.
What I think I appreciated about the three of them is their integrity and spirit:
- Sonny Gerron for Mobile County Commissioner purely because he took a principled stand on admitting some of the excesses of his youth (unlike Bill Clinton's ridiculous "I did it but didn't inhale" statement);
- Jack Edwards because he was constituency-oriented. When I was at Legal Services and his party was wreaking havoc on the poor and public benefits, you could still count on him to go to bat for the real folks. I thought that I needed to repay him with my vote. The folks he chose for his staff were wonderful people and I thought that also said a lot about him.
- Ann Bedsole when she first ran for the (state) senate was bucking her party's anti-feminist bias ... and ran, not as a party hack, but as her own woman.
Those votes had been in the privacy of the voting booth and were moments of quiet conscience.
Most recently, however, (law partner) Arthur (Madden) and I lent our names to (GOP District Judge) George Hardesty's efforts in newspaper endorsements, again, -- because the party appellation aside -- his conduct and motives were not merely above reproach but served as a model of judicial integrity and temperament. I was prepared to vote for him but, happily, he was unopposed."
-- Dom Soto,
Democratic criminal defense attorney
"Well, yes, I certainly have. I voted for myself every time ... even when I ran under the Democrat banner. And it did not hurt even a little bit."
-- Mike McMaken,
Republican district judge and former Democrat
"I forgot my most recent transgression. I voted for Riley. To do that I had to vote as a you-know-what. It wasn't so much for Riley (although his tax stand immediately after being elected and his performance as governor in general should have gotten him high marks) but as a tactic to keep (Roy Moore) out. I can't remember if the '(Ralph) Nader vote-cost-us-the-election' yammering was still going on but I think most of the crossovers knew that Riley, the stronger candidate and the incumbent, would probably win hands down over Lucy. There was a lot of talk about actually voting for (Moore) in order to field the weaker (GOP) candidate. In the end, though, the crossovers weren't willing to risk waking up and finding out that the Talibama had taken the state's highest office.
It was the primary that I voted in (for Riley). By helping Riley I knew we weren't doing Lucy any good but I could never seriously consider the scenario of helping Moore get the nomination on the basis that he would be the 'easier' candidate to defeat. This was made much more palatable for me because I thought Riley had done an admirable job, considering the mess he had inherited."
"If voting for (U.S. Sen.) Richard Shelby when he ran as a Democrat counts (as voting for a Republican), then yes, otherwise no. Voted for (George) McGovern, (Jimmy) Carter, (Walter) Mondale,
(Michael) Dukakis etc etc."
Actually, I take that back. I voted for (retired Circuit Judge) Ferrill McRae, but he was a Republican of convenience as well as (McRae's successor Judge) Robert Smith. However, for my purposes I do not consider judicial races in the same light as others.
I got to thinking about this and I can say that I have voted for some Republicans, even supported some, but all have been in local judicial races, which, even when I was on the State Democratic Executive Committee, I felt should be non-partisan."
-- Al Pennington,
"I voted against Dick Shelby after he voted NOT GUILTY on the perjury charge in the Clinton impeachment trial. Also, I was very unimpressed by the way the senator spent taxpayers' money for the shrine built in his honor at the University of Alabama.
Also, when I was in college, I voted absentee for Gov. Ned McWherter of Tennessee. He was (and still is, I'm sure) a decent man and I felt he deserved re-election.
I'm moving back to Memphis in mid-June; so I have voted in my last Alabama election. As far as local politicians go in Memphis, the best choice is usually a vote against the incumbent or simply 'none of the above.'
-- Alex Mathis,
the GOP's soon-to-be-former Alabama resident
"Too many times to count -- have many Repub friends.
I have even voted in a Republican primary. I live in a Republican-dominated area (and) the only way to participate effectively is to participate in the primary election process, especially when there's no huge Democratic contest (on the ballot)."
-- Beth Marietta Lyons,
lobbyist/former Democratic state legislator
"Once. In 1978 I voted for Fob James for Governor. Guy Hunt never let me forget it, and kidded me in public at every chance.
(Lathan's wife) Terry's parents were Guy's Mobile County Leaders. She and I had just met two weeks before the election. Even though I met Guy when we picked him up at the airport, I still voted for Fob. My wife and the Governor both have always remembered the one time Jerry went to the 'dark side,' and it has never happened again."
-- Jerry Lathan,
"The answer to your question is, yes, I have on three occasions. Each occasion was in a race for circuit judge. I was convinced that the 'Republican' candidates were the best qualified and that their judicial philosophy was such that they could decide cases on the law, not political or personal beliefs.
I am pleased to report that the track record of these three confirms my judgment even in cases where they ruled against me. This, by the way, confirms my belief that judicial races should be non-partisan."
-- Cecil Gardner,
"This is an easy one. No.
However, there are two Republicans over my 30 years of voting that I could not vote for, so I left those two races blank. I was not comfortable with the two Republican nominees; however, I would never help a Democrat at the same time by endorsing them with my vote."
-- Terry Lathan,
"I voted for Ann Bedsole for governor because she and (the late lobbyist Dexter) Kendall were so tight and for Bob Riley because I suspected there would be a felon in office if I voted for (ex-Gov. Don) Siegelman."
-- Rick Yelverton,
Democratic criminal defense lawyer
"I got to thinking about this and I can say that I have voted for some Republicans, even supported some, but all have been in local judicial races, which, even when I was on the State Democratic Executive Committee, I felt should be non-partisan."
"I voted for (former GOP Congressman) Sonny Callahan every time he ran."
-- Gary Tanner,
former Democratic state senator and county commissioner
"I have voted for a number of Republicans over the years -- mostly for judgeships.
Probably the first was Perry Hooper when he ran for re-election as Circuit Court Judge in Montgomery County. I thought he was an excellent Circuit Judge, and I thought he was one of the nicest people (well, judges) I had ever met, so I voted for him when he was opposed by a Democrat.
Although I continue to like Justice Hooper even now, the tone of his opinions on the Supreme Court became, I thought, mean-spirited. I think his contested election with Justice (Sonny) Hornsby had a significant impact on him
One of our local Circuit judges in Montgomery County now, Billy Shashy, is a Republican. I supported him the first time he ran because he is a good friend of mine, and I knew he had a great heart for people. I have known him since his childhood. At some point when he was a kid, I coached him in some youth sport.
I supported Jean Brown when she ran for the Court of Criminal Appeals for the first time, both because her husband was my law partner and because I had a personal relationship with her and liked her.
There are others as well. I think the bottom line is that friendship and/or first hand knowledge of a candidates good qualities sometimes win out over politics."
-- Bobby Segall,
Democratic attorney, Montgomery
"Yes, I voted for Steve Windom when he ran for the Senate as a Democrat in 1989-90. (I worked for him!) That is it..."
-- Jim Barton,
Republican state legislator
"Yes, when my former law partner Dennis Knizley ran for DA against Chris Galanos in 1986. There are also some local judges that I won’t name."
-- Art Powell,
"I have voted Republican and even served on Republican campaign committees in several local judicial elections. We have a great bench in both Mobile County and Baldwin County. I truly do not think politics enters into the day-to-day rulings at these courthouses.
In any event, we will probably see non-partisan Circuit, Probate and District Court judicial elections at some point down the road. Beyond that, I have held true to my yellow dog roots."
-- Steve Moore,
"Nope. I have NOT voted for either (party's nominee in a particular race) because neither was 'competent' or experienced.
Regrettably, party affiliation is viewed as an important characteristic.
Imagine the individual who has NEVER taken a public position on ANY issue but suddenly decides to run for elected office as either Republican or Democrat. Be afraid -- be very afraid.
Take the situation of an individual who was a 'Republican' last week and decided to run a week later as a 'Democrat.' It happens.
I don't question why a person checks into a given party. What I question is why any party would accept as new members a person who also joins in the election season and then support the campaign of that 'new' inductee.
The informal party affiliation initiation might be found in an individual's open criticism of the opposing party years ahead of an election cycle or aggressive advocacy on some issue long before announcing candidacy.
From my perspective, I'm more inclined to support the individual who has risked 'popularity,' employment or social status in pursuit of some advocated end and then elects to run for public office in pursuit of meeting the proffered, non-self-serving advocacy.
A person who can sit back for years with 'issues' but never says a mumbling word or takes a public position until the beginning of an election cycle is a troubling point for me.
I don't like the notion of 'mud slinging' in a campaign BUT if an advocate has been 'on point' about an issue for a protracted time and has pointed the finger all along, then what might appear to be mud-slinging may actually be the extension of the advocacy issue for which the 'new-comer' has been on record.
Folk who do not risk shaking up their own world might be a poor choice for a representative for a population who needs things to be shook.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!"
-- Joseph Mitchell,
Democratic state legislator