Runoff nets only 10 percent of voters

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY— Picking up the pieces from last week's Republican run-off election, in which few of you showed up to vote: The prediction had been a turnout in the teens but those of us who made such forecasts were a bit optimistic. The final numbers will probably show the total vote was 10 percent, at most. And if any among you still have doubts about the power of television in political campaigning, surely those doubts have been erased.
How many of you had ever heard of Luther Strange six months ago? I suspect not one in 10,000 of you had heard of him. Yet last Tuesday thanks almost entirely to a remarkably effective TV campaign — Strange won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. In the process he defeated a man with the best known name in Alabama politics, George C. Wallace, Jr.
There used to be a near sacred rule in Alabama politics most especially applicable to those who aspired to be governor — that you had to run once and lose just to get ready to run and win.
Let me call the roll: Bibb Graves, Frank Dixon, Chauney Sparks, Big Jim Folsom, Gordon Persons, George Wallace. They all ran and lost before running a winning. Why was this necessary? To create statewide name identification.
Thanks to TV, that is no longer necessary. With enough money for a statewide TV blitz, an unknown can become well known in a matter of a few weeks.
Is this good? I am not sure it is. Candidates for office are now being packaged and sold like detergents and deodorants and it is rare when the voters get to look them square in the eye. I preferred the old days when the candidates had to stump the state and press the flesh.
No matter, the lines are now drawn for what will be a dandy General Election in November. Of course the highlights will be Riley vs. Baxley for governor and the aforementioned Strange taking on yet another candidate with a most familiar name, Jim Folsom, Jr., for lieutenant governor.
There were a few noteworthy local races last week which merit brief mention: In a run-off for a seat on the Morgan County Commission the incumbent Richard Lyons polled 4,020 votes; his challenger Ken Livingston also polled 4,020 votes. There are 12 provisional ballots yet to be counted and it is hoped that they may give one of the men the majority he needs. If not, has anybody got a coin to toss?
And in Jefferson County — but here too some provisional ballots may change the outcome — Patricia Todd led Gaynell Hendricks by a margin of 1,173 votes to 1,114 votes for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
If Todd's lead holds up after the provisionals are counted she will become the first openly gay member of the Alabama Legislature. There is no Republican opposition for this seat in November.
And with football season just around the corner, one election comment which is pigskin flavored: Wes Allen, a candidate for state auditor, lost by a paper-thin margin to Samantha (Sam) Shaw despite the fact that he was endorsed by two football giants of the past: Coach Gene Stallings of Alabama and Coach Pat Dye of Auburn. Allen was a walk-on player at Alabama.
It brings to mind the endorsement Coach Bear Bryant gave to Bill Baxley when he ran for governor in 1978. Baxley also lost. Worse, he lost to an Auburn football All-American named Fob James.
I shared with some amusement the story about Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo in Woodville being listed as one of the likely targets of terrorists in Alabama. How it got on the list, nobody seems to know. I reported that the owner of the zoo was quite upset for being included on the list but I suggested it could prove to be a marketing bonanza.
It has been. A reporter from the Los Angeles Times called the zoo owner for an interview, and a camera crew for Geraldo Rivera showed up to do a story about the zoo on his syndicated TV show "Geraldo at Large." Who knows? The zoo may indeed become a major tourist attraction.

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