Primary runoff will be short ballot
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
I couldn't have been more than 10 years old when I first heard this joke but it is still one of my favorites.
A little boy from a big city up north visits his grandparents in rural Alabama for the first time. One afternoon he goes by the village blacksmith to watch the smithy do his work. The blacksmith heats a piece of iron white hot, pounds it into the shape of a horseshoe, dips it into water to set it, then tosses it aside. The lad, not knowing any better, walks over and picks up the still very hot horseshoe, then very quickly drops it.
The blacksmith smiled and asked the boy: "Did you burn your fingers?" Not about to admit he had made a dumb mistake, the lad retorted: "No. It just don't take me long to look at a horseshoe."
Which is a long way around to tell you it won't take you long to look at the Republican ballot in the run-off election on July 17.
There are only five races on the GOP ballot for state offices.
And if you think that is a short ballot, consider this: there are no runoffs for state offices on the Democrat ballot.
The races which the Republicans must decide are lieutenant governor, state auditor, Place No. 1 on the Public Service Commission, Place No. 3 on the Court of Civil Appeals and Place No. 3 on the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Certainly the contest for lieutenant governor has stirred up what excitement there is in the run-off election. It pits frontrunner Luther Strange — the tall guy — against George C. Wallace, Jr.
The contest for the seat on the PSC which Wallace is vacating pits two former legislators, Perry Hooper, Jr. of Montgomery and John Amari of Birmingham.
Vying for the GOP nomination for state auditor are Wes Allen and Samantha (Sam) Shaw. Incumbent auditor Beth Chapman did not seek a second term but instead won the GOP nomination for secretary of state. She will face incumbent Sec. of State Nancy Worley in the General Election.
Terri Thomas and Phillip Wood are battling for the Civil Appeals Court nomination while Clay Crenshaw and Sam Welch are in a runoff for the Criminal Appeals slot.
Certainly the Strange-Wallace contest is the most significant. Strange was totally unknown a few months ago but thanks to a remarkably effective TV campaign he became one of the most talked-about candidates in any race.
The commercials, some of which made reference to how tall he is (6'9") were so effective that Strange surprisingly led Wallace in the primary by a considerable margin even though Wallace surely has the most recognizable name in Alabama politics.
The winner of this run-off will face another familiar name in November, Democrat nominee Jim Folsom Jr.
Adding to the spice of this race is the likelihood that the eventual winner will immediately become one of the favorites in the 2010 governor's race, an election which will see a changing of the guard in Alabama politics.
Still unknown but it will be watched closely is whether the Democrats will launch a major crossover campaign in the GOP run-off. The Republicans have no rule prohibiting crossover voting.
As to the voter turnout, it may set a record — an all-time low record. Some election officials say that less than 20 percent of the voters may turn out for the runoffs.
The bottom line: If you are one of the minority that plans to vote in the run-off elections you need not worry about any long lines.
Tax collections for the first nine months of the fiscal year are breaking all records. The total collected through June 30 was $4,085 billion, a stunning 9.65 percent increase over last year.
In what was a major understatement, assistant state Finance Director Bill Newton said "we will comfortably meet the budget requirements for 2006."
Bob Ingram's syndicated weekly political column appears in dozens of newspapers across Alabama. He is a native of Cherokee County.