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Appellate Judge Sue Bell Cobb running for state chief justice

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sue Bell Cobb made it official Tuesday that she will be a candidate in next year's Democratic primary for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Cobb told a news conference in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building that her 24 years of experience as a judge and her work off the bench to improve life for juveniles, cancer victims and others has prepared her to lead Alabama's highest court.

Alabama Chief Justice Drayton Nabers has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for a full term as chief justice. Nabers was appointed chief justice by Gov. Bob Riley in 2004 to replace Roy Moore, who was removed from office after refusing a federal court order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the judicial building.

Cobb and Nabers may have company in the race. Justice Tom Parker, who served as deputy administrative director of courts under Moore, issued a statement Tuesday morning that gives credence to reports that he is considering entering the Republican primary for chief justice.

Neither Nabers nor Parker had served as a judge before coming on the Supreme Court.

"Because the Virginia governor's race showed that the Democratic Party still retains some viability in the South, Alabama Republicans need a strong candidate with a proven conservative record that provides voters with a distinct contrast to the Democratic candidate," Parker said in the statement, referring to Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine's victory last week in the Virginia governor's race.

Parker said that without another candidate, the Supreme Court race would be between "the architect and the cheerleader for the largest tax increase in Alabama history." As finance director for Riley, Nabers helped develop the governor's $1.2 billion tax package that was rejected by voters in 2003. Cobb campaigned for the tax plan.

Cobb said she expects to be the only candidate in the race with extensive experience as a judge, saying that as a trial court judge she tried cases in 40 of Alabama's 67 counties.

"My potential opponents have not tried a single case in a single county," Cobb said.

A spokesman for Nabers' campaign, Bill Smith, said the chief justice has 40 years of experience as a lawyer and in the business world and is looking forward to talking about that experience in the upcoming campaign. Smith described Nabers as "a proud conservative Republican."

Cobb, 49, made her announcement with her husband, Bill Cobb, and 9-year-old daughter, Caitlin, on one side and her parents, Otis and Thera Bell on the other. She blew kisses to supporters and reached over and hugged her mother after a speech in which she promised to bring "experience, leadership and integrity" to Alabama's highest court.

"I truly love the court system. If people have a problem and it's serious, it's going to come into the court system," Cobb said.

In 1999, Cobb announced that she was running for a seat on the Supreme Court in the 2000 elections, but dropped out of the race after her husband was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Bill Cobb, a lobbyist for BellSouth, said Tuesday he has gotten a clean bill of health from his doctors and supports his wife's decision to run.

Sue Bell Cobb was appointed a district judge in Conecuh County in 1981 and was re-elected to that position twice before running successfully for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994.

She said one incident that helped define her career came in 1989 when her home was firebombed, apparently the result of a child abuse case in her court.

"I know what it is to be the victim of crime and I understand the fears and frustrations faced by those who have seen the system fail," she said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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