The Political Round-Up
Winners & Losers, Part 1
By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Alabama politics, it's the greatest show on Earth.
It's just intermission of the 2010 election cycle and it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the July 13 runoff campaign and the November general election to match the drama of Tuesday's party primaries. Political scientists and assorted amateur politicos will study these primary campaigns and results for years like archeologists sifting through the ruins of Pompeii.
As has become MBT custom on the day after the election carnage, we turn to our coterie of politically astute observers to share their insight with "winners and losers" as a launching point.
Winners to varying degrees include Ashley Rich, Robert Bentley, Hallie Dixon, David Green, Ron Sparks, Joe Reed, Hank Sanders, Luther Strange, Jo Bonner, Darren Flott, Napoleon Bracy, John McMillan, Bradley Byrne, among others. Losers are Artur Davis, AEA, Judy Newcomb, John Tyson Jr. (who was also a winner of sorts with Rich's victory in the GOP DA's primary), Mark Erwin, George Wallace Jr., to name a few. And some of the winners may not be winners so much as losers-in-waiting.
Okay, hombres, los ganadores & perdedors?
"I am confused by the results of Tuesday's election. I was a political student of Pierre Pelham, Jack Miller and Arthur Outlaw. They would have all been surprised by Robert Bentley's success except for his mild manner and positive ads. Tim reminds us of 'the past' and Bradley may be too cerebral (and angry) for the Alabama voter, but they can surely understand a nice guy who won't take a salary and reminds them of their family doctor. If Bradley will quit screaming at everyone and become a bit more humble, he will win.
Who would have thought that a Mountain Brook (social) lawyer could beat a sitting Attorney General? Well, he did. I think that the voters didn't pay attention and STILL tied him to Gov. Bob Riley who could not get elected 'dog catcher' after the BINGO embarrassment. I am surprised how many people I talk to didn't follow Troy's opposition to Riley on BINGO or that Riley's endorsement of Luther fell on deaf ears (and did not harm Strange like many of Riley's endorsements). No surprise on Kay Ivey, Ron Sparks, Vivian Figures, James Buskey, Jim Barton, Dick Shelby, or Jo Bonner .... BUT the Wallace era IS OVER .... Young Boozer's election made it clear that the George Wallace name is no longer magic.
So we still don't really know if our next Governor will speak only English or will be smart enough to lead our state into the future with multi-national companies investing in jobs and capital improvements all over Alabama. I hope we can save us from ourselves.
That makes sense to me; does it to you?"
"Biggest loser of the day was Jim Folsom Jr. As it turned out, he would have easily won the Democratic nomination (for governor). Now he is gonna have one helluva fight against Kay Ivey with all this anti-incumbency sentiment in the state and nation. He also would have fared better against the GOP candidate in November than Sparks.
AEA was another big loser. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at Bradley Byrne and came up well short. In my opinion Byrne will be the GOP nominee. There will be significant turnover in the Legislature this year thus weakening AEA's lobbying strength and influence.
I guess you have to put Artur Davis in the loser category as well. He was never going to be elected Governor, but in the same breath Alabama has lost a very competent Congressman. He could have held that seat forever, and quietly built a sphere of influence in that body and that would have benefited the state. Whoever replaces him will not be as competent or as moderate.
Poor Troy King. This guy never had a chance. He is a nice guy, but was always under qualified for the job. Once "Bingo Bob" threw him under the bus and to the wolves he was a non-starter. In that same vein I guess you call "Big Luther" a winner, but this guy is running for something else and just using the AG's office as stepping stone.
You have to call BB a big winner. While there is going to be a runoff. Very few candidates have survived a beating like he took from AEA and Tim James. In that, I hope Dr. Robert Bentley prevails in the number two spot in the runoff. Wouldn't it be nice to have a civil election with an honest exchange of ideas and opinions without the usual lies and rhetoric.
I think Kay Ivey won big also. I know people were confused when she changed races. She never caught traction in the Governor's race and did the only thing she could to stay in public service. She is an honest and competent public servant who may be able to ride a GOP wave over Folsom.
PS: Watch the 5th district congressional race. What should have been a safe bet for the GOP is not anymore. With that, make Steve Raby a winner, potentially."
" State and local Democrats breathe a huge sigh of relief. Some of the projected Republican optimism and gains may need to be revised downward. Sparks vs. the R candidate brings a new general election dynamic that few if any contemplated until last few days.
It won't be quite a reprise of Graddick vs. Baxley, but since the Dems don't have any races to worry about, I imagine that the keenest minds are already trying to determine how to get Dem voters to the polls on July 13th.
If it is possible for AEA to be any more involved in the R primary, they will completely be all in to defeat Byrne. AEA could be the big winner in all of the elections is Byrne is defeated. The leaders of AEA have to know that they must do everything possible to defeat Byrne because they have to know that his election (and a stronger GOP) will not be good for them.
It wasn't a good day to be an incumbent (or former incumbent) who looked opportunistic, see Davis, Parker Griffith, to some degree Troy King, George Wallace, Jr., etc.
And speaking of Wallace, I would guess his political career is finally over."
"How many people thought that Ron Sparks would beat Artur Davis like a rented mule? Steve Nodine would beat Davis wearing stripes and campaigning from jail. I really think that Davis would have garnered about the same percentage of votes had he not even campaigned. Just thrown his name out there. He may be an effective congressman, but he's the most inept politician that I've seen in decades. The Republican battle is very exciting. Bentley's showing was out of nowhere. I'd love to know the money cost per vote spent by the candidates. I can't even begin to call the winner of the runoff. If Sparks can get someone to interpret what he says and if he hammers home the lottery, he may have a chance."
"Locally, the biggest surprises in Baldwin to me were Judy Newcomb not getting in the runoff and Wayne Gruenloh not leading in District 3. Dixon certainly has the credentials and had a strong ad featuring the endorsement of Bobby Wilson’s family and two others. Green ran a very visible roadside campaign with green signs and somehow Newcomb got left behind.
Gruenloh has done a very solid job as Commissioner and I believe will prevail in the runoff, no disrespect to his opponent.
In Mobile County, Rich seemed to cruise to an easy win that I felt early in the race would be a toss-up. Certainly the events of the last few weeks didn’t help her opponent nor did his ads win him any votes either.
Statewide, I was alerted to Dr. Bentley early on that he would be Byrne’s biggest threat (written before the vote is certified) -- note to Tim James and the AEA that a clean campaign does attract voters. Hopefully 'true Republican PAC' will now go away.
Should James eke out a runoff spot, it will be a long six weeks and the James campaign ad buy revenue will be larger than the tourism income if the worse possible beach scenario comes true.
I’m also surprised at the margin of Sparks’ win -- just too much Obama baggage on Davis. Guess Sparks’ unexplained half-million came in handy.
Another one thrown out on his ear was the carpetbagger 'Republican,' Griffith, in Huntsville.
(Kay) Ivey cruised in on name recognition, not discounting the fact that she is and could be a good leader in that capacity if, speaking of name recognition, she can get past the 800 pound gorilla (Jim Folsom Jr.) in the November election.
Of course, a name recognition expert would have a field day in the “Young” (George) Wallace, Jr. vs. Young Boozer race. Couldn’t believe I saw some Wallace signs that were a ripoff of his Daddy’s famous blue and orange signs. Sorry, Jr., a few decades too late.
Stay tuned, the best is yet to come."
"Winners: anybody who's not an incumbent.
Losers: Commissioners Gruenloh, Bishop and Gruber for jetting to China on a junket while biggest disaster to the coastal environment and economy comes ashore."
"Winner: Bob Riley beats Fob James (in Republican primary for governor, real statesman leads over populists);
Winner: John Tyson (DA’s office performance vindicated in Ashley Rich’s win over Mark Erwin);
Winner: Residents of District 33 (Vivian Figures’ victory over Herman “I’m Still in Denial and nowhere near Egypt” Thomas);
Loser: Illegal gambling interests (Troy King’s marked defeat)."
"Apparently the Tea Party candidates did not fare too well. I think Vivian Figures' supercharged win was a sign of her support over the political pundits who could not stop writing about Herman Thomas. The James Gordon defeat was a surprise since all the other incumbents survived. Of course the big win was Ron Sparks' crushing media favorite Artur Davis. Ron had a lot of support within the agriculture community that voted in the Democratic primary for a change. Sparks' north Alabama roots paid off tremendously. (Robert) Bentley or (Tim) James will give (Bradley) Byrne a run for his money and I will be surprised if any of the remaining candidates will endorse Byrne."
"Statewide: I was correct that Bentley caught on like wildfire despite spending 1/3 the money of either Byrne or James. Perhaps it was his radical idea that relatives of a sitting governor ought not to benefit financially from state business. Focus groups prove that negative advertising is effective, but Bentley's approach at positive advertising worked in the primary and if he is in the runoff (and doesn't have to wait three weeks to know he is in the runoff) he will give Byrne good run. Sparks surprised everyone and will likely make a state lottery the issue in the general election. Combination of recession and oil spill may make lottery and e-bingo look attractive.
Local: The only one of note is district attorney race in which I was surprised that Judy Newcomb did not make the runoff. I knew she was in trouble -- anytime an incumbent attracts so may opponents spending so much money it is evident there are problems. David Green has spent more money than I can remember in a local race and apparently will spend a lot in the runoff. Of course, Hallie (Dixon) was Judy's chief assistant and constant defender until they had falling out. How things change."
"The biggest loser was the electorate; with so much emphasis on negative advertising - and "sensational" reporting in the media - it's practically impossible for the voters to get a true understanding of an individual candidate's qualifications."
"Winner: This Tuscaloosa doctor, Bentley? Benson? Who the hell is this guy? I like him … if he slips by Tim James, I’m interested, especially since Byrne didn’t support Baldwin County Schools in March’s “Penny Tax” election.
Loser: Bradley Byrne. Where was the Mo'? He sure spent a lot of money to be first in a squeaker. His support seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
Winner: David Green in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s race. He actually practiced law for about a year as an Assistant District Attorney in Judy Newcomb’s office. He’s got balls and cash.
Loser: Judy Newcomb. Welcome to the dust bin of history. Start being nice to people again.
Winner: Tucker Dorsey. Newcomer takes on the incumbent Wayne Gruenloh in Baldwin County Commission race and denies him an outright victory. Tucker was everywhere during the election season, church suppers, Rotary meetings, all over the place. However, Tucker’s ties to a local sewer service company does raise eyebrows …
Winner: Bob James takes on long time politico and incumbent Baldwin County Commissioner David Ed Bishop and makes him work it till July 13. If Dyas voters go to James, David Ed is out of Baldwin County politics after a long run."
"I think justice is a big winner. With clever legal maneuvering, (Herman) Thomas ducked the legal system. He could not duck the voters."
- Joe Reed, et al -- With the election of Ron Sparks. Black voters will indeed continue to do what the bosses tell them to do.
- Gambling interests -- With the election of Ron Sparks.
- James Buskey -- With the ouster of James O. Gordon, who had been a thorn in Buskey's side for a long time.
- Vivian Figures -- Black leaders here consistently line up against her and she consistently kicks them to the curb.
- Bradley Byrne -- If the runoff opponent is Dr. Robert Bentley and not Tim James.
- Ron Sparks -- If the general election opponent is Dr. Robert Bentley. Because Sparks will become governor.
- John Tyson -- With Ashley Rich's phenomenal showing against a very good, quality opponent.
- Nicki Patterson, et al -- The DA's office will remain unchanged and the players will remain the same.
- Positive campaign ads -- Voters reject negative campaign ads once again. Positive works -- Dr. Robert Bentley, Ashley Rich. Negative fails -- Tim James, Mark Erwin.
- Paul Hubbert, AEA -- Byrne attack ads fail.
- Artur Davis -- Completely lost any chance of becoming the new black voice in Alabama.
- Jim Folsom Jr. -- Went from a shoo-in vs. Sen. Hank Erwin to a very likely defeat at the hands of Kay Ivey.
- Gambling interests -- No chance unless Ron Sparks can win, which is very unlikely against Bradley Byrne. Although Byrne would be the next best hope, while Bentley and James would be more of the same opposition to gambling."
"Winner: Allen Cox. Most of Cox's long time friends were shocked when he threw his support, early on, behind Ashley Rich for the Mobile County D.A.'s race. Cox usually avoids Mobile races, especially primaries, but he had served on some charitable boards with Rich and was impressed with her character and dependability. Although most of his friends were in the Erwin camp, Cox was steadfast in his support.
Losers: Most of Cox's friends, on this one.
Moral of the story: Some good deeds (charitable work) do actually get rewarded."
"Obviously, Ashley Rich is a big winner. 70-30 over the GOP chairman is impressive no matter what other factors were at play. A corollary loser is Don Foster, the Democratic candidate for D.A. Foster had a shot against Erwin, but he is a vast underdog to Rich in November. Also, David Green in Baldwin is a big, big winner. Born under a lucky sign and that sign is $$$. Newcomb's vote will go to Green, not Dixon."
"My real quick observations: Losers obviously Jonathan Gray, Mark Erwin, “Teaparty,” Newcomb, Hermie, James Gordon, Troy King, ADC and Joe Reed, Tim James and Paul Hubbert (however, do not count him out yet).
Winners are, of course, Bentley, Rich, Tyson in a different way, Bob Riley in a small way, Media from both paid ads and acts of Nodine and friends.
The jury is still out on “Big Luther” and Bradley and Don Foster has no chance. Poor turnout."
"The best I can do is not original nor perceptive.
- 1. The minorities did not vote.
- 2. The Tea Party strength is a myth.
- 3. Mark Erwin and his supporters in the courthouse are not winners.
- 4. Ashley Rich ran a superb campaign and deserved to win handily.
- 5. Judy Newcomb ran a terrible campaign, appeared to be a political bully, and deserved to lose.
- 6. Artur Davis badly misjudged Alabama voters, black and white."
"Winner - Tucker Dorsey; Loser - Wayne Gruenloh. Dorsey simply out worked Gruenloh in the primary election and will win in the runoff if Gruenloh stays with his same game plan and lax effort at campaigning."