From governor to dogcatcher, Alabama Republicans dominated last week’s in-state elections.
If you weren’t inside the 7th Congressional District, a majority-minority area or some throwback part of the state like Monroe County (where people continue to vote Democrat in local elections but Republican in national elections), there wasn’t much to be excited about.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Doug Jones beat Roy Moore a year earlier, even though the most unlikely of circumstances made it possible: a polarizing perennial political candidate with a cloud of child molestation allegations looming over his beleaguered campaign. It proved a Democratic candidate could win statewide in Alabama.
Maybe it was a fluke, but it was something upon which to build a new, vibrant state party. Then candidates’ qualifying came, and another minor miracle (so we’re told) occurred: Democrats were going to field candidates in all of the statewide constitutional offices.
It was a new day and with a little help from a “blue wave,” Alabama could be a two-party state — maybe not in this election cycle, but perhaps Democrats could pick off a seat or two.
Nope. All those gains from 2017, gone.
Democrats lost big. Candidates for the statewide constitutional offices thought if they could meet or exceed Doug Jones’ 2017 totals, they could win. Some did, including Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walt Maddox.
In the end, the Republican field — Kay Ivey, Will Ainsworth, Steve Marshall, etc. — weren’t Roy Moore.
The congressional candidates Democrats put up this election cycle fared even worse. With the exception of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, where Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) ran unopposed, Democratic candidates suffered embarrassing, lopsided defeats.
After the votes were tallied and the races were called, the blame game began. The one common thread these candidates blamed following their defeat: Where was the institutional Alabama Democratic Party?
And that is the right question.
It’s not clear what purpose the Alabama Democratic Party serves in 2018. It’s not even clear that it exists at all, according to failed Democratic 2nd Congressional District hopeful Tabitha Isner. The state party has been largely missing in action since the 2010 elections.
It was with those 2010 elections that Alabama officially became a one-party state. It was that year and the preceding decade that many “Democrats” left the Democratic Party and joined up with Republicans. And for the next several years, the Alabama Democratic Party barely existed.
It still barely exists, but today it mainly comprises Alabama’s African-American power structure, a handful of trial lawyers and the activist grassroots in Alabama.
Back during the summer, the trial lawyer faction attempted to stage a coup, backed by Jones, and replace current party chairwoman Nancy Worley with Peck Fox. It failed, and would probably fail once more if tried again.
Party boss Joe Reed, who also heads the Alabama Democratic Caucus, controls the process by virtue of being the party’s vice chair for minority affairs. Reed can add members to the State Democratic Executive Committee to reflect minority voters within the Democratic electorate.
Reed can add as many allies to the executive committee that elects the chair as he sees fit. Therefore, he has the ability to install his handpicked chair — in this case, Worley.
Some in Alabama’s left-leaning legacy political media are starting to take notice of this. They’re apparently tired of Democrats losing.
With that system in place, the only other way to topple the current regime in control of the Alabama Democratic Party would be through the intervention of the national party.
With a presidential election cycle on the horizon, where the African-American vote is going to be integral in determining the party’s eventual 2020 nominee, a national party intervention is less of a likelihood.
My prediction: This will be a fight, and it will receive an undue amount of publicity.
Democrats didn’t lose in Alabama because of an ineffective party organization. They lost because they’re Democrats.
When voters think of Democrats, they think of Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and any number of liberal policies. These election losses are less a result of the party’s involvement and more about the letter “D” beside the name of the candidate on the ballot.
Ideally, the state Democratic Party would take a big-picture approach. It would look to Georgia and how Stacey Abrams became a viable contender.
They would target Alabama’s affluent suburbs, try to win over female voters in Fairhope, Homewood and Madison. It would go big with its get-out-the-vote efforts in Lee and Tuscaloosa counties and other places with a sizeable left-leaning academia presence. It would go to such counties as Escambia, Clarke and Conecuh, in which Ivey won last week but local Democrats still can win, too.
None of that happened this election cycle.
A few days out of last week’s elections, Reed sent letters on behalf of the Alabama Democratic Caucus demanding contributions for the organization’s get-out-the-vote effort. One letter he sent out requested a $25,000 donation — from Democratic campaigns that were already struggling financially.
In that letter, Reed wrote, “He or she who comes in second ‘never takes the oath.’”
That is an undeniable truth. However, the part about coming in second seems to be a truth with which Reed and his cronies seem to be OK as long as they remain in charge.