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Alabama's history is full of strange gubernatorial elections

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY-For those who cover Alabama politics…as I have done for more than 50 years…nothing is quite so exciting, nothing causes the heart to beat a little faster, than a gubernatorial campaign and election.
And even though the 2006 primaries are still 15 months away those of us in my trade are already getting pumped up.
Even now a reasonably safe prediction can be made about that '06 election: There will be no dark horse candidate who will come from out of nowhere to win the most coveted office in the state.
That has certainly happened in the past half-century. Fifteen months before the 1958 Democratic Primary…and that was the only election that mattered then…nobody would have picked John Patterson to be elected governor. It was a given that the most probable winner would be either George Wallace or Jimmy Faulkner. When Patterson won, there was egg on a lot of faces of us so-called experts.
Then there was the biggest upset of all…in 1978. The "Three B's"–Atty. Gen. Bill Baxley, Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley and former Gov. Albert Brewer–went toe-to-toe in the Democrat Primary. For sure one of them would be the next governor.
But out of nowhere came the most unlikely of candidates–Fob James, a former Republican, a millionaire, a neophyte. His candidacy was considered a joke by everybody except the voters. He campaigned on the premise that it was "Time For A New Beginning" and the voters agreed with him. He won going away.
Then came the fiasco of 1986 where the expression "crossover voting" became a part of our political vocabulary. The same Bill Baxley did battle with Atty. Gen. Charlie Graddick. Baxley led in the primary but thanks to a lot of those "crossover" votes by Republicans, Graddick prevailed in the run-off.
His nomination was voided by the Democratic Party leadership, Baxley was handpicked and this so irritated the voters than an unknown Republican named Harold Guy Hunt was elected governor.
And then as recent as 2002 came yet another surprise. When Congressman Bob Riley announced he would seek the office of governor more than a few people smirked. He was probably the least known of Alabama's congressional delegation, representing a district which included no major metropolitan areas. He knew little or nothing about state politics or state government…yet he defeated an incumbent Democrat. Riley's election in my view ranks a close second to the Fob James victory as the biggest upset in my career.
Having said all that I return to my original point…nothing like any of those events will happen in 2006. The prediction can be made without hesitation that the next governor of Alabama will be one of four people: Republicans Bob Riley or Roy Moore, or Democrats Lucy Baxley or Don Siegelman.
There will no doubt be some "run for the fun of it" candidates in both gubernatorial primaries–there always is–but they need not be taken seriously. One of the aforementioned quartet will be our next governor.
Who will it be? I could tell you but the editor of this newspaper doesn't pay me nearly enough to divulge that information.
I'm jesting, of course. But I'm not jesting when I say that I am already pumped.

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