In politics, look behind issues

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014

As a person old enough to remember when running for an office meant having some candidate’s cards printed, running a few local ads, and knocking on a lot of doors, I am not sure this area of our lives has improved.

Take, for instance, the current race for the state senate seat, District 31. The two candidates in the Republican primary have spent more than $500,000. The district includes all of Covington, Coffee and Pike counties, and most of Dale County.

Every evening, I find a stack of postcards with the mail, touting this candidate or that one. They’ve gotten increasingly hard-hitting and direct as we’ve gotten closer and closer to election day.

In that huge pile of money is $350,000 directed to challenger Garreth Moore’s campaign by the Alabama Education Association. When I worked in education, I was a member of that group, and I believe it has effectively represented teachers in Montgomery in the past.

But its support this year of Moore has nothing to do with Moore, with education, nor with teachers, and everything to do with a vote in the legislature in 2013 that removed AEA chief Dr. Henry Mabry from the board of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Moore’s opponent, incumbent Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, supported that bill.

That bill came at the urging of Dr. David Bronner, chief of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, who claimed that Mabry at AEA was trying to wrest control of the teachers retirement fund.

A year later, AEA has almost completely funded Moore’s campaign ($350,000 of his approximately $350,500 reported campaign dollars). When asked, Moore says that he will owe nothing to AEA, and he believes they have funded his run because they wanted a “real Republican.” He was a GOP state representative in the 90s, before being an “R” was a requirement for getting elected in Alabama.

Holley, who entered politics when one needed a “D” by his name to win, joined the Rs in about 2007. At a campaign event in Covington County last week, he quietly acknowledged the issue at the heart of the AEA issue, but declined to talk much about it.
His campaign contributions have come from a many different sources, including PACs for farmers, the Business Council, and truckers.

This, political watchers say, will be AEA’s last big hoorah in state races, because after this year, AEA dues can no longer be deducted from payroll checks. The orgnization will have to convince lots of teachers and support personnel to write checks.

Meanwhile, there was a postcard in the stack this week that caught my eye.

It wasn’t slick and it wasn’t glossy, but it was effective: A black-and-white postcard reminiscent of the old days, with a handwritten message asking Honey and me to support a candidate, and signed by a supporter of that candidate. It was practically genius in its simplicity.

See you at the polls.