News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2006


Bob Riley only viable choice for governor in primaries

Alabama may be in the middle of its strangest-ever gubernatorial election. And that's saying a mouthful given state politics of the last half century.

The state constitution barred George Wallace from seeking a second consecutive term in 1966, but voters were eager to elect his wife Lurleen as his stand-in so he could keep poking the federal government in the eye with his defiant states' rights politics.

Voters later changed the constitution to allow governors to seek a second consecutive term.

Then in 1986, Democratic Party leaders who never warmed to the abrasive politics of Attorney General Charlie Graddick and his law-and-order campaign took the nomination away from him. They charged that Mr. Graddick openly encouraged Republicans to vote in the Democratic run-off election, which helped him win.

A panel of federal judges agreed with them that Mr. Graddick illegally diluted black voting strength when he encouraged crossover voting.

Democratic voters didn't like the party handpicking Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley to take Mr. Graddick's place, and revolted.

Mr. Graddick then ran a write-in campaign and a little-known backwoods probate judge from Cullman County became the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Gov. Guy Hunt was convicted in 1993 of misapplying funds raised for his re-election inauguration and removed from office.

Fast-forward to 2006:

Republicans must choose between a sitting governor who hasn't done a bad job and a religious zealot who lost his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he wouldn't remove his Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Then, there are the Democrats who have a sitting lieutenant governor whose campaign theme is little more than "We love Lucy," and a former governor who's on trial in federal court on corruption charges.

Roy Moore, the ousted chief justice, has solid support but it's not broad. Many voters agree with his religious views but don't want another fight with the federal government.

Gov. Bob Riley has broad support but it's shallow. Many voters still resent his $1.2 billion tax plan that failed in a statewide referendum after he pledged to oppose new taxes during the campaign.

If Mr. Siegelman wins the Democratic nomination — and he's innocent until proved guilty — a jury could find him guilty after the primary. And there we would go again. Another mess.

The only viable candidate for governor right now is Mr. Riley, who's brought no shame to the state, worked to bring more jobs to Alabama and supports improving public education.

And he's been more of a middle of the road governor than his campaign rhetoric of four years ago and his six-year record in Congress might have suggested.

THE DAILY recommends Gov. Bob Riley to be the Republican nominee for governor in the June 6 primary.

At this point, we have no recommendation for governor in the Democratic primary.

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