The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 14, 2012

Ala. Democrat Party's future hinges on 74-year-old



MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Democrat Lucy Baxley and Republican Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, two women who broke the political glass ceiling in Alabama, are battling each other for the second time for Public Service Commission president. However, this time, the outcome could relegate the state Democratic Party to minor party status.

Baxley, 74, is the only Democrat currently holding a statewide office in Alabama. She is one of only two Democrats seeking statewide office in the election Nov. 6. The party fielded no one for the 10 other statewide offices on the ballot.

Cavanaugh, 46, has already ousted a sitting Democrat once. In the 2010 election, she defeated Democratic PSC member Jan Cook, who at the time was the longest-serving Democrat in statewide office. Now, she wants the president's seat on the three-member board.

Baxley narrowly beat Cavanaugh for the presidency in 2008, but she trails her badly this time in fundraising. Baxley described her fundraising as "pitiful because people won't give me money."

She said many Democratic contributors are focusing their money on the chief justice contest, which is the only other contested race for statewide office.

"They say things like, 'Lucy, you don't have anything to worry about,'" she said.

A campaigner who once thought nothing of 30 to 40 appearances week, Baxley is now in a wheelchair due to a stroke in 2006 and two bad falls that followed. She says three or four appearances a week are about her limit. Much of her work for the campaign and for the PSC is done from home by email and phone.

When asked if she's healthy enough for another four years, she said adamantly: "Yes, I can still serve the people of Alabama."

Cavanaugh, 46, has a busy speaking schedule around the state. She said she's not trying to destroy Baxley's lengthy career of state service, but the PSC needs a more active president who can be at work every day.

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