A senator#039;s review of the election

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Now that the &uot;political dust&uot; has settled from the general election, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the outcome.

There are several interesting observations that can be made about this recent election.

First, Alabamians voted in considerable numbers despite the almost uniform predictions that voter turnout would be low. A total of 1,341,327 million people cast a vote in the Governor’s race. That is 58 percent of the eligible voters in Alabama.

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Four years ago slightly more than 56 percent of Alabamians voted n and those figures were above normal. The conclusion is that we had a high voter turnout despite the predictions, and despite the negative campaigning which took place.

A second observation is that Alabamians know full well how to split a ticket. We voted to put a Democrat in the positions of Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and Commissioner of Agriculture and we elected a Republican to the positions of Governor, State Auditor and Treasurer.

Some of you will recall the 1964 national election in which Barry Goldwater swept the south as a Republican presidential candidate, and with him he took a large number of Republicans into state and local offices. It was argued following the election that Alabamians did not know how to split their ticket and therefore voted for mostly Republicans so they could support Barry Goldwater.

Times have certainly changed since then, and I do not anticipate the Alabama electorate will ever revert to a one party sweep in statewide elections.

Another observation concerns the Governor’s race. This was the closest gubernatorial election in the history of the State of Alabama. Only 3,117 votes separated incumbent Don Siegelman from the victor, Congressman Bob Riley.

Another interesting fact is that 30 of the 35 incumbent state senators were re-elected.

This is the highest number of incumbent senators to win a succeeding term ever recorded in our state.

This is of particular interest to me because we have had some very hard times over the past four years. Proration in education funding and the general decline in the economy has resulted in large amounts of criticism of the Governor and the Legislature. The truth is that this is a national problem and not a local problem here in Alabama. In the end I believe the citizens viewed it as such.

On the national scene, the 2002 congressional elections were the most lopsided of any since World War II. Only one in nine seats were won with 55 percent of the vote or less.

This was the first time in almost 50 years that the party of the incumbent President made gains in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Most pundits are attributing this to the popularity of President George Bush. That is probably accurate to a degree but I have another observation to make about the Congressional elections as well as our state House and Senate elections.

Two years ago every state legislature in the nation was required by federal law to redistrict following the 2000 Census. Many of the incumbents in these respective legislatures designed districts to protect their incumbency. This was partially true in our state.

For instance, in the Senate district where Sen. Zeb Little, of Cullman, Ala. is the incumbent there is a high number of Republican officials who hold office and generally a large Republican vote. Sen. Little, a Democrat, was instrumental in rearranging that senate district following the Census to include more predominantly democratic precincts in surrounding counties and this made his re-election effort against Republican Guy Hunt a little easier that it otherwise would have been.

I am not singling out my good friend, Sen. Little, because several senators approached their redistricting work in the same manner, but I am using him to show the affects of having to redistrict the state and how it relates to the election we just concluded.

Alabama now has its first female Lieutenant Governor and only the second person to ever move from a Congressional seat into the Alabama Governor’s office. There will, in my opinion, be some interesting times ahead.

Until next time, remember &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. I hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Senator Wendell Mitchell can be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing to P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.