Unofficial numbers show run-off cost tax payers #036;25 per vote

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2000

MONTGOMERY-The numbers are not official, but it appears that the run-off election a week ago cost the taxpayers about $25 for each vote cast.

Election costs exceeded $3 million, the total number of votes cast is expected to top out at about 120,000.

Immediately there was a clamor by some that party runoffs be abolished (many states do not have them). Those who support no run-offs point out correctly that now that Alabama is a two-party state that the primaries no longer have the importance they once did. In the old days, the Democratic Primary was the only election that mattered.

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Certainly eliminating the run-off would reduce the cost of campaigning as well.

Despite the hue and cry for no run-offs, don't bet it will happen any time soon. Even though many of them don't vote, and this was painfully true on June 26, the people get mighty upset when somebody starts tampering with the election process. And some of the purists get upset at the thought of someone being elected to office who did not get a majority of the votes.

And that leads to a bit of political trivia-in 1950 in the Democratic Primary for governor there were a record 15 candidates. Gordon Persons led the field with 33 per cent of the vote. Runner-up Phil Hamm was so far back with 15 per cent of the vote that he did not contest the run-off.

With no Republican opposition, Persons became governor even though two-thirds of the voters had supported another candidate.

Legislators howl a lot about their pay…they average around $32,000-a-year for their part-time jobs…but rarely do you hear them talk much about how they benefit from the thousands of dollars they receive in campaign funds.

Records filed with the office of Secretary of State by the lawmaker is how that many of them have turned their campaign war

chests into supplemental expense allowances.

State law says the money can be used only for expense' "reasonably related" to their performance of their duties or for campaigning. That "relationship" has been carried to the extreme by some legislators.

In 1999, even though there were no legislative campaigns, the lawmakers spent almost $2 million from these war chests.

Mostof it was travel related…gasoline, food and lodging…but some of it wasn't.

Several legislators have bought or leased automobiles with campaign money, the stickout being a M Class Mercedes Benz sports utility vehicle leased by State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, at a cost of $19,000. Others who leased or bought motor vehicles included State Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler (a 1999 Chevrolet pick-up.) Sen. Mitchell strongly defended his leasing of the Mercedes.

"To me, that's what campaign funds are for," he said. "To pay for your expenses related to your Senate service."

Legislators are not alone in using campaign money for a wide variety of purposes. Gov. Don Siegelman has used a part of his sizable campaign kitty to lease a Chevrolet Tahoe and Lt. Gov. Steve Windom used some of his money to pay for fax equipment for his office which is used for non-state purposes.

Speaking of Gov. Windom, he won a clear victory in court last week in the case involving Garve Ivey of Jasper, the trial lawyer who was accused of being behind the smear campaign waged against Windom in the 1998 lieutenant governor's campaign.

Anydoubt as to who won and who lost in that litigation was removed when the two men exited the courtroom after the verdicts were announced.

The Windom people were hugging and celebrating, Ivey was shouting at the news media, calling them "leeches", and even shoved one of the TV photographers out of his path. It got ugly.