2014 election season shaping up much different than four years ago
The Alabama Republican Party's
Bill Armistead welcomes the audience
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama's 2014 election is shaping up to be much different than 2010, when statewide races were crowded with candidates and Republicans were fighting to end 136 years of Democratic control of the Legislature.
For 2014, Republicans incumbents in statewide offices face little opposition in either their own party or from Democrats.
State Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said he's concerned more about people who aren't true Republicans running against incumbents than he is about the Democratic Party mounting a big challenge to the GOP's dominance.
"It's chaos over there and that's fine with me," he said of the Democrats.
For Republican incumbents in the Legislature who are facing strong opponents, it is often from within their own party primary as traditionally Democratic-leaning groups like the state teachers' organization contribute more to Republican candidates.
In 2010, Republicans won every statewide office they sought and captured 60 percent of the seats in the Legislature. With that election, Republicans controlled all three branches of state government for the first time since the 1870s.
Since then, the Democratic Party's chairman has resigned to start a new group, and former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who lost to a Republican in 2006, is trying to rebuild the party as the new chairman.
Worley said several well-known Democrats are considering seeking statewide office, and she expects to surprise people with the candidates that step forward before the qualifying deadline April 4.
"I'm not pessimistic at all," she said.
A Democrat who is pessimistic is Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner Jr., who is known for turning out Democratic votes in west Alabama.
"The state Democratic Party is in shambles, and the Republicans have cut off the Democrats' source of money," he said.
He said donations from gambling interests have dropped off dramatically because of the state's crackdown on privately operated casinos. Plaintiff lawyers don't contribute as much to Democrats as they once did because the state has placed limits on jury verdicts. The Republican-controlled Legislature has passed laws to stop public employee groups from using payroll deductions to collect money for their political action committees, and that has reduced the amount the traditionally Democratic-leaning groups have to give, he said.
The teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, is still a major campaign donor. But its biggest donation so far — $150,000 — has gone to former Republican Rep. Garreth Moore of Enterpirse, who is challenging GOP Sen. Jimmy Holley of Elba. It also gave $30,000 to Republican Tim Sprayberry, who is running against GOP Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville.
AEA says it is contributing to candidates from both parties that support public education, but the Republican Party chairman says it's a sign that the organization knows Democrats can't win in those legislative districts.
"We are not going to let them bring down our incumbent candidates," Armistead said.
In 2010, Gov. Robert Bentley was one of seven Republicans and two Democrats seeking the governor's office. This time, he has one Democratic challenger and one primary opponent.
The Republican challenger, former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George, has reported raising $1,716 dollars. Bentley has collected $2.2 million. The Democratic candidate is former professional baseball player Kevin Bass, who lost a bid for mayor of Fayette last year.
Republican Kay Ivey knocked off Democratic incumbent Jim Folsom Jr. in a big budget campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010. This time she has one Republican challenger and one Democratic opponent, but neither has raised much money. Republican Stan Cooke, a minister from Kimberly, reports $20,250. Democrat James Fields, one of the Democratic representatives who got defeated in 2010, has not reported any fundraising. Ivey has $382,764.
Republican Attorney General Luther Strange, who knocked off Republican incumbent Troy King in 2010, has no opposition from either party so far. He has more than $1 million in campaign cash on hand to help scare off opposition.
Bentley said the Republicans officeholders in Montgomery have worked well together for the last three years and that bodes well for all of them in the 2014 election.
William Stewart, retired chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, said the most campaign excitement in 2014 may be generated over the two second-tier offices where no incumbents are running — secretary of state and state auditor.
"This is one of the most lackluster general election years coming up I can remember. Most incumbents will be re-elected," he predicted.