By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
All of the press, money, advertising and attention has been focused on the Alabama Republican Party, where the mega-PACs have all chosen up sides assuming that the GOP will maintain a supermajority in both Houses of the State legislature for another four years. The Alabama Education Association (AEA) is doing battle with the corporate interests led by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and their corporate allies over what kind of Republicans are in that new supermajority.
Meanwhile, the Alabama Democratic Party is also holding its primary today. There are a number of races to be decided, especially in majority minority districts. The biggest statewide contest is who the party’s gubernatorial nominee will be.
Two Democrats are facing off for the gubernatorial nomination.
Parker Griffith (71) is a doctor and a former Democratic State Senator who was elected to the Congress in 2008 at the start of the Obama Presidency. In 2013 Griffith announced that he was tired of the Republican Party and was pondering a run for governor as an independent. Democrats entered 2013 with hopes that former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, former Governor Jim Folsom, or State Senator Billy Beasley would run for the office. None dared enter the race to challenge popular incumbent, Gov. Robert Bentley.
In a surprise move, the Democratic Party welcomed the outspoken Griffith back. He is now running for Governor as a Democrat on a pro-gambling/pro-Medicaid expansion ticket.
His primary opponent is former professional baseball player Kevin Bass (34) from Fayette. Bass is younger and does not carry the baggage that the party switching Rep. Griffith carries. He has also lost his only previous election…..a quest to become Mayor of Fayette.
Bass and Griffith both support expanding Medicaid. Bass however objects to the plan for expansion that Griffith has proposed.
In a recent statement, Bass said, “Democrats have challenged Gov. Bentley’s unacceptable refusal to expand Medicaid, but instead of trying to maximize the funding available to our citizens, Griffith wants to let private insurers line their own pockets by spending as little as they can get away with…If Mr. Griffith is just going to take the Republican position on what he says is his No. 1 priority then why should Alabama’s Democrats nominate him?”
Undeterred, Griffith said in a statement, “I’ll keep our tax dollars here. I’ll create jobs here to Alabama strong. I’ll draw on our state’s innovational spirit to not simply expand a flawed Medicaid program but use this opportunity to reform, retool and expand it.”
Griffith explained his plan at a media conference and in a series of meetings in Montgomery on Thursday, May 22, 2014. The Griffith plan would require a waiver from the Federal government because it is a market-based solution that uses private insurance instead of the standard top down Medicaid structure. Eventually the State’s share of health care costs would gradually increase after three years, but never exceed a maximum of 10 percent.
Griffith estimates that the State would become responsible for a minimum of 191,000 additional Alabamians on Medicaid in the first year alone. Griffith claims that this would lead to an increase of $2.1 billion annually to Alabama’s GDP and would to generate an additional $163 million to $237 million in annual tax revenue, based on varying research data. Griffith claims that his plan will generate $1.6 billion or more in additional tax revenue while costing the State $1 billion, for an overall tax benefit of $600 billion. A study prepared by Troy State refutes those numbers.
Widely read Alabama political pundit, Steve Flowers wrote in a recent column, “Parker Griffith should garner the Democratic nomination for Governor. However, he will face long odds against a very popular incumbent in the fall. Even if Bentley was not unbeatable on his own, winning the GOP nomination for Governor is tantamount to election in Alabama.”
Democratic voters will select their champion in what could be the lowest turnout for a Democratic Primary in decades.
The Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 7:00 pm.