Woods altered political landscape
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–The news stories on the death of Dothan businessman Charles Woods at age 83 described him as a "perennial candidate" for office. He was. But he was also a candidate who altered Alabama political history in 1970 and nearly made political history four years later.
Woods, who had been badly disfigured in a World War II plane crash, first came on the political scene in the late 1950s. He was a major supporter of John Patterson in his successful race for governor in 1958 and subsequently was appointed chairman of the Board of Corrections.
It was a dozen years later…in 1970…that Woods had an enormous impact in the outcome of a race for governor. Incumbent Gov. Albert Brewer was locked in a fierce campaign for a full term with former Gov. George C. Wallace.
Woods also qualified for that race but was considered little more than a "run for the fun of it" candidate. Astonishingly, he polled 149,000 votes, forcing Brewer and Wallace into a run-off. Brewer had led in the first primary but Wallace came back to win in the runoff.
Woods offered to endorse Brewer in the run-off but the demands he made for that endorsement were more than Brewer would give. Woods then endorsed Wallace.
There was little doubt among most observers that had Woods not been in the race Brewer would have won that election without a run-off and Wallace's political career might well have been over. As it worked out, Wallace served 12 more years as governor and Brewer was not heard from again politically.
After altering history in that election it was his next campaign where he nearly made history. Woods challenged incumbent Lt. Gov. Jerk Beasely when he sought a second term in 1974. Few took Woods' candidacy seriously but incredibly he led the ticket in the first primary. With a massive campaign effort in the run-off, Beasley came back to win in the second primary.
In between his frequent ventures into politics, Woods made and lost several fortunes in the television industry and in real estate. He was founder and owner of Dothan's first TV station, WTVY and later owned a chain of television stations.
It happened when the Legislative Contract Review Committee was asked to approve a contract with an advertising agency, and included in that proposal was money to pay the expenses of the three Democrats–Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron and House Speaker Seth Hammett–to the next World's Fair in Japan.
All three of the Democrats said they knew nothing of the trip, had not been invited, and Baxley…who is being mentioned as a possible challenger of Riley's in the 2006 governor's race…said she had no intention of making the trip.
Lee Sentell, state tourism director, said the administration was simply trying to plan ahead by asking for the money. It is not unusual for high state officials to make junkets such as this to promote economic development. Sen. Barron went on an agricultural trade mission to Cuba last year.
Rogers war chest for the campaign outnumbers Fuller's by a whopping 10-1 margin. Federal records put Rogers' campaign kitty at $889,000 compared to only $87,000 for Fuller.
These numbers underscore the fact that the National Democratic Party…which at one time thought this might be a seat it could wrest from the Republicans in the closely-divided House…no longer think so. Fuller has received only token financial support from the national party.