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30 Days To Election Day: Alabama

With no Senatorial or gubernatorial races, the remaining races for President and the House seats from Alabama are rather boring affairs since Alabama will award their 9 electoral votes to Romney.

The current House delegation is 6-1 in favor of Republicans and it should remain so after this election. However, there are two races that bear some watching this time out. The first involves Republican incumbent Spencer Bacchus in the 6th District. Bacchus never faced a serious electoral challenge until one came from his own party in the Republican primary in Alabama. Mainly attacked on the right by a Texas-based Tea Party group for his alleged ethical lapses, Bacchus survived the challenge. His occasional streaks of bipartisanship has not made him a darling of the GOP, although he is a fairly reliable conservative voice. The most serious charge against him was that he used his position on the House Financial Services Committee to essentially engage in insider trading. Although eventually cleared of wrongdoing by the House Ethics Panel, his actions were instrumental in passing a law this year against this practice. In essence, Bacchus represents the problems with incumbents who stay in office for extended periods of time, thus the effort to oust him this year. His challenger will be Penny Bailey, a political neophyte who considers herself a “Republican” but knew she stood no chance in a primary against Bacchus, so she opted to oppose him as a Democrat and provide some general election competition for the first time in 12 years. Although she will likely lose in this heavily Republican district, you have to like her spunk.

The other is in the 7th District where the Democrat’s lone representative from Alabama, Terri Sewell, represents a black majority district. This is an area that contains such iconic cities in the civil rights movement as Selma and Birmingham. Her opponent will be Don Chamberlain whom she defeated in 2010 with 72% of the vote. The interest in this race is that Chamberlain simply picks the wrong districts to run in since he is no stranger US House races. In 1994 and 2002 he ran in the Democratic primary in the heavily Republican 1st District and lost both times. Since moving to Selma, he has twice won the Republican primary and will twice go down to defeat at the hands of Terri Sewell. In short, expect no change in the make up of the Alabama house delegation this year.

There are 11 questions on the Alabama ballot, nine of which will be discussed here. The first would require that compensation of state legislators could not increase during their tenure. This includes not only pay but other fringe benefits. Also, any votes to increase compensation must be public and it requires a two-thirds majority to enact pay increases. A second measure would grant the legislature permission to impose and regulate a business privilege tax on corporations while a third would update language in the state constitution regarding corporations and allow the legislature greater latitude in regulating corporations.

Voters in Alabama are being asked to approve a $750 million general obligation bond. That would be through the authority of a state commission tasked with landing big economic development projects in the state. Several newspapers have endorsed the bond as needed to bring business and jobs to Alabama. My general objection to these bond issues is that they start off with the best of intentions, usually create a bloated bureaucracy more concerned with contracting studies rather than doing what they are supposed to be doing with the money for a minimal return on the investment. The taxpayers of Alabama are then held holding the debt while some politician can point to some boondoggle project. Does Alabama need another $750 million in debt?

In what can only be described as a “duh!” moment, one question asks voters to remove references to racial segregation and poll taxes in the state constitution. It is good to know that Alabama is just getting around to this. In a more controversial area, one initiative would guarantee the secret ballot in employee representation with employers. This could be considered the “anti-card check” amendment. The state’s Forever Wild Land Trust is about to expire. This question would ask voters to extend it for another 20 years. Since being created, it has been used to purchase land for recreational use, nature preserves, state parks and additions to wildlife management areas. Since most of the funding comes from royalties on natural gas drilling, it seems like a worthwhile idea.

Finally, Alabama will ask its voters whether there should be a state constitutional amendment against compelling any individual, employer or health care provider from participating in any health care system. This is obviously in response to Obamacare’s mandate.

In conclusion: Mitt Romney will take Alabama’s 9 electoral votes and all incumbents will be returned to the House leaving the current 6-1 GOP advantage in tact.

Running totals thus far: In the electoral vote count, Romney now leads 110-108 while Republicans control the Senate 26-16 seats. Meanwhile, in the House the Republicans likewise control the lower chamber 102-81 in seats.

Next: South Carolina

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