Friday, June 22, 2007

An arbitrary observation

If I declared myself, seriously and publicly, to be my own branch of the federal government, the very best I could expect would be to get laughed out of polite company. This, among other reasons, explains why I'm not Dick Cheney.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Are contested primaries always bad?

When you're gone for a while, old news stacks up like cordwood. I'll handle some of the bigger pieces in the next few days.

One of the most notable items of recent state news that didn't involve state Sen. Charles Bishop's right hand was Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks' announcement that he won't run against U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., next year. His declaration effectively cedes the Democratic nomination to state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, assuming no other contenders emerge unexpectedly in the coming months.

Sparks, who, unlike Figures, has won two statewide elections, was the best remaining chance for Democrats to spring a Senate upset after U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, opted out of the 2008 contest. It's Sparks' prerogative to decide whether to run, though, and he chose to back away, claiming Democrats will stand a better chance of ousting Sessions if they avoid a contested primary.

But I'm not so sure that a primary battle wouldn't have helped -- or at least not have hurt -- Democratic chances. For sure, Figures' status as the presumptive nominee gives her a stabler base from which to campaign and raise money, and without a primary fight, all of that money can go toward the general election. But even without a primary, Figures (like any Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama) still likely will face a huge monetary gap unless her opponent does something outlandish enough -- in the words of the Alabama Line at Doc's Political Parlor, "a George Allen type meltdown" -- to draw national attention to the race.

Figures' problem will be building up enough name recognition to have a fighting chance: Sessions is known statewide, while Figures is known mainly in the Mobile area, which is Sessions' home turf, too. A contested Democratic primary might have sunk the eventual nominee deeper behind in the money race, but the tradeoff would have been more publicity, more battle testing for the nominee, and more public familiarity with the Democratic Senate candidates at an earlier stage of the campaign.

That's hypothetical cordwood, though, and I have no obligation to stack it. As it is, Figures appears to have the Democratic blessing to challenge Sessions -- and a very tough challenge ahead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back in the saddle at last

You may have noticed certain changes here lately, such as the informal "only one post in the last six weeks" policy that suddenly and unexpectedly took hold as other obligations overtook me. I can't say it's been a positive development, and for that I apologize.

But the good news is that I'll be back to posting with some degree of regularity starting today. I can't promise the regular daily updates I long ago provided, but I'll do my best to start arriving more often than, say, rain. (Remember rain? That wet stuff from the sky you heard about in science class? I think I even saw it once, but it couldn't have been around here.)

Thank you to all of you who have continued to visit or who have expressed concern during my absence. I've learned that I have many very loyal readers, including some I never even knew I had. For that, I am deeply grateful and appreciative.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The cake has been taken

I've come to accept that Steve Windom urinated in a jug on the Senate floor as lieutenant governor a few years back (and indeed, even to remember it with a tinge of whimsical nostalgia).

I wasn't at all surprised by the sneak-attack 62 percent pay raise the Alabama Legislature gave itself this year (without any corresponding limitation on other sources of income, of course) before accomplishing little else that it wasn't required to do.

Our lawmakers wasting virtually the entire session squabbling over organizing rules before hurrying to avoid a special session by passing the budgets at the eleventh-and-a-half hour? I'm shocked whenever that sort of thing isn't the case.

But through it all, deep down inside, part of me desperately wanted -- no, needed -- to believe that our elected officials ultimately would resolve any disputes through debate and negotiation, that Goat Hill would retain some minimal sense of decorum, and that I certainly never would live to see one grown man punch another grown man in the head in the Senate chamber.

That part of me died today. Thank you, Charles Bishop.