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Red Rover, Red Rover,
will Dems vote cross over?

Scent in air of 1986 when 'crossover' voting scorched state politics with lasting effect

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Could an epochal moment in state political history repeat itself this year -- only in reverse?

Could Roy Moore ride a wave of Democratic "crossover" votes in a Republican runoff to become the GOP nominee for governor, one viewed as more vulnerable to the Democratic nominee in the general election?

The reference is, of course, to 1986. Almost a quarter century ago, Charlie Graddick came within a whisker of becoming governor of Alabama. He won the Democratic nomination in a runoff with Bill Baxley. But a party committee, that included then state Chairman Bill Blount, declared that Graddick improperly prevailed on the shoulders of Republican "crossover" voters. Those were tossed and Baxley was anointed the party's nominee. Long a Democratic darling, Baxley benefited to an even greater extent because Graddick was seen as an interloper, having been district attorney in Mobile County as Republican before winning the state's attorney general office as a Democrat.

Clearly, for such a delicious strategy to succeed, it would require an other-worldly gift for persuasion and organization. Something akin to herding 10,000 cats.

But the state GOP, at least back then, was on record as not objecting to crossover voting. So assuming that stands, anything is possible, also assuming that Moore gets into the runoff.

One thing is for sure: Chambers of Commerce the length and breadth of the state would detect at least one silver lining in what they may otherwise regard as a cloud -- a tsunami of national media whose seekers of truth would descend giddily upon the state -- renting cars, sleeping in hotel rooms, gorging themselves in bars and restaurants -- to delight their readers/viewers with a blow-by-blow of the campaign, especially if the card read Republican "10 Commandments Judge" Roy Moore vs. Harvard-educated African-American Artur Davis.

State political prognosticators seem split about 50-50 on whether Moore can get into the runoff; Ron Sparks is given at least a "puncher's chance" to claim the Democratic nomination for governor. A Moore loss would keep the national media away in droves, though a Tim James/Artur Davis pairing would tickle its fancy. A Sparks' win would lengthen its face John Kerry-like.

But Moore vs. Davis in Alabama would be a match made in media heaven. Is it possible?

We asked some "experts," most of whom were around during the Baxley/Graddick brouhaha that led to the election of Gov. Guy Hunt, the sad-sack Republican preacher from Cullman whose victory at some point in that election season was certainly more far-fetched than Roy Moore's in this season.

"Since it’s legal to cross over to vote in the Republican run off election, there could be significant crossover voters. There is the factor of local races, however, that could keep Democrats voting in the Democratic Party run off election."
-- SBC

"Some (crossover voting may be organized), but not much. Certainly not enough to make a difference (putting Moore over his runoff opponent)."
-- HRH

"This is strictly from memory, but Baxley took the election into Federal court and ultimately Judge Robert Vance overturned the result, based on a finding of surreptitious Republican finagling, but of course that led to a tremendous reaction that elected Hunt. Who of course was removed from office after being convicted by Attorney General Jimmy Evans. Who of course lost his next election (to now U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions) because he prosecuted Hunt.

Back to the present: I think the only solution is for all blacks -- repeat all -- to register as Republicans and consign the Alabama Democratic Party to the status of Whigs. In other words, return to the one-party system. Or more accurately, the no-party system. That way, blacks would have a moderating influence on the entire election process and make it possible to elect progressives. By continuing as Democrats they in effect exclude themselves from the process. Of course we could expect Republicans to begin accusing Republicans of courting "the bloc vote" ala George Wallace vs. Albert Brewer in 1970.

Of course, this applies to several other Southern states as well. This would mean electing black Republicans to Congress. But this would have a moderating effect as well."
-- JGR

"I don't think it is possible. First, I think Bradley Byrne would have to get beat up pretty badly for that match up to be close enough for Democrats to affect the outcome. Secondly, I think a lot of Democrats will be voting for Bradley in the Republican primary anyhow, given his liberal to moderate pedigree (Jack Miller protege, Clinton donor, etc.), his support for tax reform, education funding and other progressive issues. Sans the AEA bashing, he may be the best Democrat in the race on either side."
-- PPW

"Your gut is right (very remote). Very few voters vote in that kind of strategic manner. They vote their gut.  And Artur supporters would be repelled by the notion of voting for Moore. It is tough generally to get any meaningful number of voters to vote for such 'inside baseball' reasons, but when passions are high, it is even more difficult.

It makes a good story line ... for a novel."
-- HPC

"Artur would have two major camps of support in the Democratic Primary -- liberal (Obama believer) whites and blacks.

I cannot imagine either camp being able to hold their nose and vote for Roy Moore in any significant numbers.

Both groups simply find him too repugnant.

These type of manipulative cross-over efforts are spectacularly overrated.

Other than 24 years ago in Baxley/Graddick, I cannot think of a single effort that was effective.

But I can think of several that blew up in the face of the candidate seeking the crossover effort; i.e. (the GOP's) Winton Blount gets (black Birmingham Mayor) Richard Arrington’s endorsement but no significant black votes. But Fob James took the Arrington issue and killed Winton with fliers in the rural white areas."
-- LJH

"Could happen. But I do not think the runoff will include Moore. It will more likely be (Tim) James/Bradley."
-- MEB

"I am not sure that Artur can win the Democratic nomination. The gambling issue is bigger than most folks think it is. Blacks like gambling for the jobs and the play. As for your question, in my opinion, Artur cannot win in November against any Republican who is
running. Furthermore, most Democrats, like I, will never be seen voting in a Republican Primary. Ron Sparks, although he has little money and is running a poor campaign can still win, because before the
Primary vote the voters will have a choice between gambling with money coming out of the pockets of  those who voluntarily choose to gamble and taxes which will come out of every citizen's pocket."
-- KEE

"I might be very naïve on this matter. However, I doubt that Artur’s voters are sufficiently motivated to vote in the Republican runoff for Governor. I cannot foresee any organized effort to do such a thing for obvious reasons, not to mention the backlash issues which are myriad. Without an organization to drive the turnout, I just do not see Artur’s voters attempting to vote in the Repub runoff."
-- HLL

""While it is too early to say with certainty that there will be a runoff, recent polling indicates that the Republican Primary is shaping up to be a match between Byrne and Moore.

"In that case, Democrats likely will talk about encouraging crossovers to vote for Moore.

While it may be nice to fantasize about, I don't think this talk will turn into much real action. The truth is the Democrats face an uphill fight in the fall no matter who the nominees are.

Plus, the strategy ignores a crucial fact: there will be plenty of Democrats in primary runoffs as well. For example, there are three good Democratic Attorney General candidates, and three good Democratic candidates for congressional seats in the Hunstsville area and West Alabama (Artur's seat). Not to mention local races with runoffs. So the "pool" of potential crossovers will be narrowed significantly.

Moreover, polling also indicates that Byrne is more likely than any other Republican to defeat either Democrat in the fall and it's not even that close. The vast majority of Republicans will understand that and will vote accordingly, and will therefore swamp whatever Democrat votes cross over in the runoff."
-- NFA

"No chance -- that scenario doesn't even exist in Fantasyland."
-- WSR

"Do you know whether the Repub’s have a 'crossover' prohibition?"
-- GCA

"Re GOP crossover prohibition, I was just thinking about that. Back then (1986), as I recall, the Repubs said 'no problem, come on in, the water's fine' re crossover voting. But that was when the Republican Party existed but didn't matter. Recently it seems like they have been in the throes of 'loyalty' tests, oaths, etc. In fact, they nearly booted Jeff Glidewell as a candidate (for juvenile judge?) because he had previously qualified for some other race as a Democrat, but I'm sketchy on that. I think most of the GOP purity efforts have been directed more toward candidates than voters themselves."
-- MBT

"I think that you are right about the recent Repub position on the subject. We really didn’t have two viable, politically competitive political parties until after 1986. I am a big believer in people being able to vote. We are not a party registration state. How do you strictly and fairly enforce prohibiting a voter from voting in a primary election? Maybe upon proper cause, require them to vote a challenged ballot."
-- GCA
           
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