Bad day for political machines
By By Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–Picking up the pieces from the run-off elections a week ago that produced few surprises but was historic in one sense.
For the first time since blacks got the right to vote in the mid-1960s they turned their backs on the black political machines, ignored the marked ballots, and sent to Buck's Pocket two of their biggest face cards.
U. S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, running with the endorsement of the three most powerful black political groups-the Alabama New South Coalition, the Alabama Democratic Conference and the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition–was soundly trounced by Artur Davis.
In Montgomery, Joe Reed, the long-time head of the Alabama Democratic Conference and arguably the most powerful black political leader in this state for decades, likewise was soundly defeated in a bid for the State Senate.
The turnover didn't stop there.
State Rep. John Hilliard of Birmingham…a nephew of the Congressman…also went down to defeat as did Latosha Brown of Selma, a protege of State Sen. Hank Sanders, one of the founders of the New South Coalition.
Quite simply, it was a very bad day for the black political organizations which for so long have been able to deliver the black vote to the candidates of their choosing.
Davis, the Harvard-trained lawyer who defeated Hilliard in the congressional race, was quick to point out the significance of his landslide victory.
Now for a few more quick observations from the run-off elections:
A tip of the hat to Beth Chapman. Chapman overcame what appeared to be an insurmountable lead to defeat Jim Zeigler in the run-off for the GOP nomination for State Auditor.
That defeat may have brought down the curtain on Zeigler's political career.
After being elected to the Public Service Commission in 1974 he has been on a losing streak that would get most football coaches fired.
Also scoring a come-from-behind triumph was newcomer Stephen Black.
After trailing Carol Jean Smith in the Democratic primary for State Treasurer, young Black waged an impressive and costly TV blitz in the final days of the run-off to score a victory.
And if you don't think times have changed in the state of Alabama, Black played to the hilt in his TV spots that he was the grandson of Hugo Black.
There was a time in the past when any kinship with him would have been a kiss of death in Alabama politics.
In case you don't know, the GOP nominee for Senate District
14…Henry E. (Hank) Erwin Jr.–is the son of the late Henry E. "Red"
Erwin, who was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II for
picking up a burning incendiary bomb and tossing it out the window of a B-29. The young Erwin is a Christian radio talk show host. The seat in the Senate is being vacated by Bill Armistead, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor.
There will be a major change in the makeup of Alabama's delegation to the U. S. House next year. Three new faces will be included in the seven-member delegation. Of course one results from the defeat of Hilliard, but leaving by choice are Bob Riley, the GOP nominee for governor, and Sonny Callahan, who did not seek reelection this year. The biggest turnover ever was in 1964…the year of the "Goldwater Sweep"…when five Republicans were elected to the House from Alabama.