Folsom claims lieutenant governor
By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Former Democratic Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. appeared headed to victory in the lieutenant governor's race Tuesday night over Republican political newcomer Luther Strange.
A win would complete a political comeback for Folsom, who dropped out of politics after losing the governor's race in 1994.
With about 91 percent of precincts reporting in the unofficial count, Folsom had 565,434 votes, or 52 percent, to 524,758, or 48 percent, for Strange.
A win would return Folsom to the lieutenant governor's position that he held from 1987-1993. Since that time, the position has been stripped of much of it's power, but is still viewed as a stepping stone for candidates for governor.
With Republican Gov. Bob Riley's win Tuesday, a Folsom win would also continue the state's 20-year tradition of electing governors and lieutenant governors from different parties.
Folsom, a political figure in Alabama since the 1970s, was trying to make a political comeback since losing the race for governor in 1994. He was heir to the political name of his father, former two-term Gov. James E. "Big Jim" Folsom.
Strange, a Birmingham lobbyist and lawyer nicknamed "Big Luther" for his 6-foot-9 size, defeated another famous name, Public Service Commissioner George Wallace Jr., in the Republican primary.
There's a good chance the winner will be on a future ballot in the governor's race.
Recent Alabama history has shown that the lieutenant governor's office has become a launching pad for the No. 1 Capitol job. The last eight Alabama lieutenant governors have gone on to run for the state's highest office.
The lure of higher office may explain why the race has continued to be costly, even though the lieutenant governor's power over the state Senate has mostly been stripped away in recent years. Folsom and Strange have spent a total of more than $8 million to win an office whose primary duty is to preside over the Senate.
The candidates used their impressive campaign funds to wage aggressive campaigns, with Strange claiming that the election of Folsom would return Alabama to the corrupt politics of the past. His ads reminded voters of allegations of government corruption made against Folsom when he was governor from 1993-1995.
Folsom countered that he was cleared of those allegations. He said that Strange is a Washington lobbyist who has represented utilities, who raised rates in Alabama.
The most interesting part of the race may be the size of the candidates. Strange became a household name with his "Big Luther" TV ads that poked fun at his 6-foot-9 frame. In television ads, Strange sometimes referred to Folsom as "Little Jim."
Folsom is a bit shorter at 6 feet, 3½ inches, but he emphasized his size with his campaign slogan: "The little guy's big friend" — an echo of his father's campaign heyday. The elder Folsom was elected governor twice.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!