The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


September 29, 2012

ASU professor predicts GOP victories in November

As Nov. 6 approaches and voters prepare to mark their ballots in a highly-polarized presidential election, voters may forget there is more than one election at stake. 

In addition to the presidential election, Alabamians will also select the offices of chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and president of the Public Service Commission.  

“To be honest about it, it’s not your typical race for chief justice,” said Dr. Jess Brown, professor of Government and Public Affairs at Athens State University. “For one thing, former judge Roy Moore is running for the position. This is the same Roy Moore who was impeached by his fellow judges in 2003.”  Moore was removed from the position because he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building, thereby disregarding a federal court order. 

“That’s interesting that one party would nominate somebody who had been previously removed from office by his professional peers,” he said.

The other candidate, Robert Vance Jr., did not win the Democratic primary.  The winner of the primary was actually Harry Lyon

“Mr. Lyon previously engaged in behavior unbecoming of a prospective judge,” Brown said, adding that  the state Democratic Party Executive Committee removed Lyon from the ballot. “I really felt in a way for Mr. Lyon, the Democrat, because everything they accused him of after the primary that they’d used to remove him from the ballot … had been known before he was ever qualified as a candidate. You would think they would disqualify him as a candidate rather than wait until after the primary and then throw him off the ballot.”

Vance is a circuit judge in Jefferson County and son of the late Robert Vance Sr., a federal judge who was killed by a bomb mailed to his Birmingham home in 1989. Vance Jr. was chosen to run for chief justice by the Alabama state Democratic Executive Committee.

In the race for president of the Public Service Commission, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is running against incumbent Lucy Baxley.  She is what Brown referred to as “one of the two old war horses of the Democratic party left on the political landscape of Alabama.”  

According to Brown, Baxley holds the only statewide office held by a Democrat. Republican candidate Cavanaugh is currently a member of the Alabama Public Service Commission.  The commission regulates intra-state electrical, phone, and utility rates, so companies like Alabama Power are very interested in this particular race. 

Brown said the treasuries for these two races are usually heavily funded by vested interest groups. He added that groups such as the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association, insurance companies, and physicians usually write big paychecks toward the campaign of those running for chief justice. However, he noted the campaign funding for that races is unusually low. 

Brown believes vested interest groups may not care whether the winner of the election is Moore or Vance, because five out of the eight members of the court are conservative.

Brown said many Alabamians will be voting against President Barack Obama.

“What’s going to happen, because there are no other high-profile races down the ballot, they’re going to go vote ‘Romney’ and then ‘Republican, Republican, Republican, Republican, Republican,” he said. “There are going to be some Democratic nominees down ballot, those low visibility races, that are going to just get run over (in) that freight train. It will have nothing to do with their particular performance in office.”

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