In the days leading up to our March 13th Republican Primary it began to appear more and more like we were going to have a spectacular horse race in our presidential preference vote. Tracking polls coming out of the weekend had all three candidates, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, knotted at 31%. The prolonged GOP primary parade had made it to the Heart of Dixie and we were finally finding some relevance in the presidential selection process.
Alabama became the focus of intense national media attention. Media sources implemented elaborate exit polling during the day Tuesday. By 5 pm with two hours left for voting, CNN was reporting that in Alabama, even more so than in Mississippi who was voting the same day, exit polling was showing an extremely high turnout among voters who identified themselves as evangelical fundamental Christians. They were saying that it was phenomenally high even to a much larger degree than had appeared in neighboring Georgia and Tennessee the week before. This polling data would portend the results that would be revealed later in the night as the votes were counted.
Rick Santorum had become the darling of the Religious Right. The former Pennsylvania Senator had forged out a niche and was carrying the mantle of the social conservatives in the Party. Evangelical voters gave him a significant victory in Alabama. Santorum garnered 35% of the GOP Primary voters who showed up March 13th. Romney and Gingrich were tied for second with 29% each.
Santorum’s Alabama win was impressive and newsworthy. However, the news story of the day was the stunning vote received by former Chief Justice Roy Moore in his quest to recapture his old job after a 10 year hiatus. Moore’s victory was an astonishing accomplishment. It will undoubtedly be the political story of the year. Moore defeated two prominent well financed opponents without a runoff. The fact that he was outspent over seven to one and won without a runoff is nothing less than amazing. He gave all the credit to God. Indeed there is no rational analytical secular explanation to this phenomenon other than it was divine intervention.
Moore’s annihilation of his two opponents has him regaining his old position he lost in 2003. He was first elected Chief Justice in 2000 primarily due to publicity he had received for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom as an Etowah County Circuit Judge. After his election as Chief Justice he had a large granite monument of the Ten Commandments carved and erected in the State Judicial Building. A federal court ordered it removed. When Moore refused to remove his monument a state panel expelled him from office.
Obviously the GOP primary voters who voted that day did not like Moore’s expulsion. They finally got their chance to right that wrong. There was more sympathy for Moore’s removal from office 10 years ago than Charlie Graddick’s being robbed in the governor’s race by a Democratic Party panel 25 years ago.
Graddick and third place finisher, Chief Justice Appointee Chuck Malone, raised and spent close to $1.5 million. Moore raised and spent just over $200,000. Moore received 51% of the vote to Graddick’s 25% and Malone’s 24%. This is a remarkable and historic resurrection for Roy Moore. His GOP victory is tantamount to election.
In the only other Supreme Court race, Civil Appeals Court Judge Tommy Bryan won a very impressive 66 to 34 victory over Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones. Bryan will move up to the high tribunal in January. He has no Democratic opponent in the fall.
All of our seven members of congress won re-nomination and are on the road to reelection. The most watched race for congress occurred in the 6th District, which encompasses Jefferson, Shelby, Tuscaloosa, Blount and Chilton counties. Incumbent Spencer Bachus coasted to an easy victory. He outdistanced his three opponents garnering 59% of the vote. It was thought that State Senator Scott Beason might be a somewhat formidable opponent. This did not materialize as Beason received a paltry 27% of the vote and was even beaten by Bachus in his own area of Gardendale.
The only statewide runoff on April 24 will be for President of the Public Service Commission. Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh barely missed winning without a runoff. She received 49% of the primary vote. Mobilian Chip Brown made the runoff with Cavanaugh. He had 27% of the vote.
It was a fun primary.
See you next week.
About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at http://www.steveflowers.us.