The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 24, 2014

Candidates from Democratic family nixed by GOP


Associated Press

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The son and daughter-in-law of former Democratic House Speaker Tom Drake have lost their bids to run for major Alabama offices as Republicans.

The Alabama Republican Party's Candidate Committee did not grant ballot access to Cullman attorneys Tommy Drake and Kimberly Drake during a meeting Saturday in Montgomery.

"They showed no evidence they had ever been Republicans and they were still tied to the Democratic Party," Party Chairman Bill Armistead said Monday.

Tommy Drake had signed up to run against Republican incumbent Robert Aderholt in the 4th Congressional District in north Alabama. His wife had signed up to challenge Republican incumbent Beth Kellum for the state Court of Criminal Appeals. Their disqualification leaves Aderholt and Kellum without any opposition in the party primary June 3 or the general election Nov. 4.

"When we were denied access to the ballot, our opponents were essentially elected," Tommy Drake said Monday.

Drake's father, Tom Drake, served nine terms in the Alabama House, including being speaker from 1982 to 1990 when Democrats controlled the Legislature. He was also a floor leader for Democratic Gov. George C. Wallace.

Tommy Drake has run as a Democrat before for the Alabama House and Cullman County district attorney. Kimberly Drake had also run as a Democrat, including being the party's nominee for the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals in 2008. Neither had won as a Democrat.

Tommy Drake described him and his wife as "pro-life fiscal conservatives." He said they reflect the political transition in Alabama, with most of their friends now being Republicans. He said they have contributed to and voted for Republican candidates. He said they felt it was time to make a party switch, but the Republican Party leadership didn't agree.

"The core complaint was we were political opportunists," he said.

Republicans now hold every Alabama office elected statewide, about two-thirds of the legislative seats, and six of Alabama's seven seats in the U.S. House. "A Democrat is not going to be elected in the state of Alabama," Drake said.

He said other Cullman County Democrats have switched to the GOP without any problems, but he acknowledged they didn't have a family name legendary in Democratic politics.

As for his father, Drake said, "he's a lifelong Democrat and is still a Democrat."

Drake said he and his wife won't challenge the party ruling in court. He said running as independent or third-party candidates would be difficult because of the thousands of votes' signatures needed to qualify for a race, but it's not something he has ruled out.

Another Republican candidate for a major state office was also denied ballot access.

Anniston attorney Ray Bryan was disqualified from the race for state auditor. Bryan, who was running on a platform of abolishing the auditor's office, was not approved as a candidate because he did not file his financial disclosure statement with the Alabama Ethics Commission by the deadline set in state law, Armistead said.

The statement requires candidates to list their sources of income and their income-producing property.