The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 9, 2012

After losses, local Dems look toward 2014

By Adam Smith

— Just three days after Tuesday’s general election, local Democrats are already casting their eyes toward 2014.

After the votes were counted, only one local Democratic candidate — license commissioner Greg Tucker — was victorious. Longtime County Commissioner Bill Daws and newcomer Kris Allen came up empty.

“Bill ran a really good race and we’re proud of his integrity and the way his campaign was run,” said Ron Gatlin, chairman of the Limestone County Democratic Executive Committee. “There was a lot of straight-party voting going on, and it’s sad.”

He added that if Democrats want to have better luck in two years, it will require sharpening their grass-roots approach to campaigning. He said the Alabama Republican Party paid for much of the literature that was sent to Limestone County residents ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Up for re-election for the Democrats in 2014 will be Limestone Circuit Judge James Woodroof Jr., District Judge Jeanne Anderson and Sheriff Mike Blakely. Circuit Court Judge Robert Baker, who won re-election in 2010 as a Democrat, switched parties two months later.

District 1 County Commissioner Gary Daly, a Democrat, would be up for re-election in two years, but has already announced he would not seek another term. District 3 Commissioner Bill Latimer, also a Democrat, will be on the ballot if he seeks another term.

“We’re already working on the groundwork,” Gatlin said of his party’s 2014 plans.

The defeat of Democratic candidates wasn’t isolated to Limestone County Tuesday. Limestone resident Charlie Holley, a Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional district, garnered only 35 percent of the vote. In what was predicted to be a close race, Democrat Bob Vance’s 48 percent of the vote wasn’t enough to topple Roy Moore, a man who previously held the post but was removed for failing to comply with a court order.

Lucy Baxley, Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission president, received only 45 percent of the vote compared to Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh’s 54 percent. Baxley was the last remaining Democrat to hold a statewide office.

For many years, Democrats in Alabama retained control of state government by running as “Alabama Democrats,” who were more conservative than their Washington counterparts. George C. Wallace rode that strategy to four terms as governor. But in recent years, the Republican Party has drilled into voters that there is no difference in an Alabama Democrat and a Washington Democrat.

“Barack Obama has been their worst enemy. He’s taken them so far left Alabamians can’t embrace what they stand for,” state Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said.

State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy, Wallace’s son-in-law, acknowledged the Republican Party’s strategy worked in the 2010 and 2012 elections, when Republicans won every statewide race in Alabama.

“Bill Armistead and the Republican Party have done a great job of demonizing the president. They never talk about any candidate without mentioning the president first,” he said.

Gatlin said it’s become a challenge on a local level to separate his party’s candidates from what happens in Washington. He said it’s Republican candidates who are working for the party and not for the residents.

“It’s a distraction trying to tie everybody to (President) Obama and (Nancy) Pelosi and we need to be focused on the people right here in the county,” he said. “They’re not running against folks in Washington; they’re running against folks here in Limestone.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.