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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

Big & Rich; Umbrella on a rainy day;
Same ol' same ol' political tussle
or historical moment?

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
It's what every candidate loves to reply when asked how the fundraiser went: "It was big and rich."

Well, for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tim James Tuesday night in Montgomery, it was at least half that. Country music star John Rich, half of the popular duo Big & Rich, highlighted a fundraiser for James at the Cloverdale home of Tami and Stinson Slawson.

The Nashville-based Rich, who is also a solo artist, songwriter and producer, broadened his political horizons with his first out-of-state effort in behalf of a campaign with no direct effect on him. According to Rich, he just connected with James and believes James is the kind of leader America needs now in every state.

Rich performed Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," his own hits, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" and "Lost in this Moment" and ended with "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," which he played for the children in the crowd who gathered around him, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Guests included James'  parents, former Gov. Fob James and his wife, Bobbie, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Perry Hooper.

The cost to attend the fundraiser was $125 a person. More than 100 host committee members paid $500 each.

Paving a path to victory
In north Alabama earlier this week, Democratic candidate for governor Ron Sparks said he backed legislation to draw $100 million annually for 10 years from the state's oil and gas trust fund to better Alabama's highways. Talk of tapping the state's "rainy day" fund provokes the ire of many officials, but Sparks rejoins, "I don't think it gets much rainier in Alabama than it is today." 

Davis vs. Reed: What does it mean?
What is the significance long and short term, assuming any and either, of the increasingly public and bitter rift between Democratic gubernatorial front runner Artur Davis and venerable Alabama Democratic strongman Joe Reed?

Is it merely the predictable backlash of the kingmaker to a usurper in his throne factory? Is it an upstart recognizing a political tipping point where the strongman's value is greater as his dupe, his foil?

Is it the fading light of a monolithic black bloc vote, no longer the political touchstone for many members of a segment of society who have successfully entered the economic mainstream and acquired a more diversified political agenda?

Questions too rarified for MBT to ponder even briefly, so we turned to one of our senior gurus:

"It is interesting. I suspect that Artur will do much better than suspected among white voters thanks to Joe Reed, Jesse Jackson, and his stands on things like charter schools. In fact, were Tim James the GOP nominee, you'd have a GOP nominee opposed to charter schools and the
Democrat in favor of them!

(Editor's note: James campaign rebuts -- "Tim James is on record favoring charter schools, including changing Alabama state law to enable the creation of charter schools. According to James, "George Hall Elementary School in one of Mobile's most disadvantaged neighborhoods is an excellent example of how the charter school model can succeed. As many as 95 percent of students at George Hall School are scoring at or above grade level. We need to do all we can to empower principals and teachers to replicate the George Hall School success, and that starts with supporting charter schools legislation passage in the upcoming legislative session."  

The (Reed/Davis) rift is personal, but it is indicative of the change within the African-American community. While it won't affect General Elections for decades, if not generations, it will have an impact on primaries. No longer will the ballots be as determinative. In fact, they may accelerate in their decline.

This is a generational phenomenon. I don't see younger voters wanting to be seen using a ballot. On minor races, the ballots may continue to hold sway in a primary context, but they will not in upper ballot races. The more affluent and younger the African-American voter, the less inclined to defer to a ballot.

Joe Reed  is definitely a relic. But he still controls the Democratic Party apparatus. And I suspect he will until the Lord gathers him to his bosom.

The Democratic Party politicos lack the stomach to take him on. The only chance this would change would be for Artur to be elected. Nobody else could do it. Only a governor with nothing to lose would or could challenge Joe. And until this happens, the Democratic Party will always be at a disadvantage among white voters. It takes 38 percent of the white vote for a Democrat to win.

The right Democrat in the right race can pull this off (to wit presently: Jim Folsom Jr.) ... but it is the clear exception to the rule. And 38 percent will remain generally off limits as long as Joe Reed is the face of the Democratic Party."

Reed heads the Alabama Democratic Conference which will observe its 50th anniversary next year. The ADC was founded to support the John Kennedy-led 1960 Democratic presidential ticket to which and whom, with no apparent irony, Davis regularly refers in his campaign remarks.
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