By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
Since 2010, some people have argued that the Democratic Party is dead in Alabama.
They are wrong.
There are several reasons why Democrats are not only alive, but in good position to take back several seats we have lost.
First, the 2010 and 2012 elections are not a good indicator of what is going to happen in 2014.
In 2010, Republicans outworked Democrats. That year was also a wave election that benefitted Republicans across the country. But looking at how Democrats performed in local elections last year, it seems that wave has ended.
Even with the Republican wave in 2010, Democrat Joe Hubbard defeated an incumbent Republican in Montgomery. And in 2008, Democrat Bobby Bright won one of the most highly contested congressional campaigns in the country, winning a seat in south Alabama that hadn’t voted for a Democrat for Congress since 1963.
The elections from 2012 also tell a different story than what some political pundits in Montgomery would have you believe.
Lucy Baxley had been an outstanding public servant for our state. But last year, Lucy’s health limited her ability to campaign, and made it harder for her to get out and meet voters. It’s difficult to win if you can’t meet the voters.
In the race for Supreme Court Chief Justice, Judge Bob Vance was an excellent candidate who worked very hard during his short campaign. But Judge Vance had a major disadvantage in that he didn’t enter the race until late August after the previous Democratic nominee had been removed from the ballot for violating the judicial cannon of ethics.
Roy Moore had an entire year to campaign, and went into the election with high name recognition. Judge Vance only had about 80 days to raise money and introduce himself to voters statewide. Despite his disadvantages, Judge Vance almost won, and I believe that he would have if he had had one or two more weeks to campaign.
But 2012 also had a lot of good news for Democrats in Alabama. In Jefferson County, Democrats swept Republicans in every county race. In Tuscaloosa County, Democratic Probate Judge Hardy McCollum defeated Republican Ted Sexton, who had been County Sheriff for over 20 years, in a landslide victory where McCollum received 62% of the vote.
With 213 contested elections for county offices in the state, Democrats still won a majority of the elections and defeated 22 incumbent Republicans.
So the lesson from 2010 and 2012 is that it isn’t about the political party; it’s about the candidate. When Democrats get out and talk to voters and tell them where we stand and what we believe, we can win!
But there are more reasons why 2014 will be a better year for Democrats.
First, most voters don’t like that the Republicans have a Supermajority in Montgomery, which gives them enough power to be able to do stop debate and force through any legislation without debate or compromise.
Our government was never meant to be set up where one group of people have total control, and I believe the voters are going to fix that in 2014.
Another reason 2014 is looking better for Democrats is because Republicans are starting to divide internally. Most recently, we saw this when Gov. Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, and Speaker of the House Representative Mike Hubbard all endorsed a challenger in the election for Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and then lost when Chairman Bill Armistead was re-elected.
Other examples of the Republican split can be seen when Republicans in the legislature continually override the governor executive amendments to their bills, or when the Speaker and former Gov. Bob Riley form their own political action committees to challenge the leadership of the Republican Party and compete with the Party for financial support.
In addition to alienating one another, Republicans have also alienated several groups of voters.
The Republicans have lost support from educators, firefighters, and law enforcement after the Republicans slashed their pay and changed their retirement benefits. Republicans also lost support from many women after Republicans tried to pash the transvaginal ultrasound bill. And most recently, Republicans have failed to support gun owners by refusing to bring up legislation sponsored by Democrats that would protect a gun owners right to keep their firearm stored in their vehicle while they are at work.
All of these things combined work in Democrats favor going into 2014. While the Republicans have alienated large groups of voters and continue to go to war with each other, Democrats have learned the lessons of 2010 and 2012, and we will be ready in 2014. So is the Democratic Party dead in Alabama? Not by a long shot!
Representative Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus. He was re-elected Minority Leader in 2012.