Hello. I am the person who writes as Cal Alabaster Jr./King Cockfight/a plethora of other personas and characters/myself because I have no sense of creating understandable, modular internet branding.
In advance of tonight’s Weld election liveblog and since a large number of outsiders are following today’s Alabama primaries because of the presidential race, I figured that I, as Weld‘s satirist in residence, would put together a short guide to three down ballot races that could draw outsiders curiosity as they are plunged into addictive, horrified amusement with Alabama politics of which natives of the state such as myself are quite familiar—and by which we are no longer amused.
So please, put on your vomit-proof rubber suits, make sure your bullcrap goggles are snugly attached to your face, and enjoy this brief glimpse of the modern era of a political ecosystem so screwed up that great Southern political chroniclers such as W.J. Cash, Clarence Cason and Dante were thought to be geniuses just for being able to conceptualize it in all its glory.
(Two of those three killed themselves, by the way.)
1. The Republican primary for Alabama’s 6th Congressional District
What’s a funny nickname for this race?: “The Fight for the White Flight” or “The Beasoning”
Who’s in it?: U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, State Sen. Scott Beason, Blount County Probate Judge David Standridge and a guy named Al Mickle.
What’s the deal with this district?: White people. Lots of well-moneyed white people who filtered out of the big cities in Alabama over the past generation because they couldn’t live there without seeing a black and/or poor person because of that whole integration mess. They all live here because a federal court twenty years ago decided the best way to make sure a black person gets elected to Congress in Alabama was to create one district where all the white people live in Central and West Alabama and another where all of the black people live in Central and West Alabama.
Statistically speaking, this district politically looks and sounds a lot like a Vanderbilt Class of 1957 reunion party. These are the kinds of people who wouldn’t watch “The Andy Griffith Show” because it’s too rustic. These are the people who don’t like the “foreign influences” on Kenny G albums. These are the people who think that a Ruth’s Chris is as classy as a McDonald’s.
And with the addition of Blount County, the district is staying plenty white with a zesty dash of redneck crazy.
Why’s it a big deal?: Bachus, as you might have heard, is under investigation for whether he profited off trades he made using inside information he received on the finance world as a congressman. Because of the bank bailout and a variety of other vague “not conservative enough” reasons, the Tea Party types have turned against him and have been looking for an insurgent candidate to take him out.
Enter Beason, who, as you might have heard, is Alabama politics bad boy du jour: Co-sponsoring an astoundingly tough immigration law that has drawn all sorts of national liberal ire, possibly scuttling a federal prosecution of some of his present and former legislative colleagues because he decided he tape a racist Republican electoral strategy session as evidence that could be played in open court, and using his power as a state senator to block Jefferson County, which he represents, from collecting tax money it needs, playing a key role in the county filing for the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Because, from all indications, Alabama Senate leadership got tired of his antics, he has been ejected from any position of note in that chamber and was looking for a place to move up.
How could it shake out?: Beason, even to his supporters, has ran an awful campaign—failing to articulate Bachus weaknesses to the masses until the last few weeks of the campaign and never mentioning the immigration law in any of his ads. There is a school of thought that he is waiting for a runoff to really kick things up against an entrenched incumbent such as Bachus, but the truth is that his campaign has not been all that well funded, raising less than $100,000 in the race compared to Bachus’ $1 million warchest entering the campaign. An anti-incumbency SuperPAC’s ample anti-Bachus spending could make up for his lack of campaign savvy thus far, however.
But Beason getting enough votes for a runoff is not guaranteed. Standridge, the third Republican in the race, could conceivably poll better: He got on the air before Beason, he has a simple and appealing pay-off-all-the-debt-like-Blount-County-did platform that appeals to GOP voters, and he is well liked in Blount County, the new addition to the 6th District that was thought to be a boon to Beason’s race-baiting and anti-immigrant political pluses.
Yet there are a lot of pro-business voters in this district’s heart down in Shelby County, and I would be highly surprised if they did not pull things together for Bachus in the end.
Hilarious stat to watch: Whether Al Mickle gets 2 percent of the vote. This is a guy who believes that a 2009 military drill in Los Angeles means that the black helicopters are gonna come for voters soon. You will be amused at him getting that many votes, but you will also be ashamed.
We call that feeling “Alabama politics.”
Chief opportunity for crazy Alabama rhetoric: If Beason wins or gets in a runoff, there will be a hell of a crazy speech.
You think Newt Gingrich’s bitter victory speeches targeting the media were petty and made no sense?
Y’all ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
2. The Republican primary for Alabama Chief Justice
What’s a funny nickname for this race?: “Judicial Christ and the Last Crusade”
Who’s in it?: Acting Chief Justice Chuck Malone, former Chief Justice Roy Moore and Mobile Circuit Court Judge ”Charcoal Charlie” Graddick.
What’s the deal with this race?: Whether Alabama can have a mostly sane statewide judicial election. With most of the court firmly in corporate-friendly hands, judicial campaign donations are down, meaning there has not been much of a multimillion-dollar arms race so far this year. And the rhetoric has been much more toned down than one would have suspected in the years where Jesus and killing murderers might as well been judicial running mates, based on some of the ads.
Why’s it a big deal?: Honestly, this is a litmus test of the competency of the Alabama electorate to pick judges. There is no way in hell a Democrat gets elected to this gig again. Malone is an understated, shockingly solid and lawyerly competent chief justice and has been running his campaign as such. Graddick has been interesting, but not necessarily uber-outrageous.
And then there is Moore. Yes, that Roy Moore, who you may remember for stirring national foment when he placed a giant slab with the Ten Commandments etched into them in a public building when he was last chief justice. Moore was removed from office for defying a federal court order to remove the rock, and he gained enough evangelical deification that he was thought to be Alabama’s rising political star.
The problem is that Moore, whose political views I have typically just summed with the phrase “THINGS AIN’T JESUS LIKE THEY USED TO BE!”, does not know much more about government and policy than Bible verses and whatever seemed to work best in 1910. That landed him back-to-back unimpressive gubernatorial primary finishes in 2006 and 2010, and he has now returned to campaign for the job where he built up his national name recognition only clinging onto the barest of relevance.
But Moore could very well win since hanging out with Christ has typically been all it takes to get elected to an Alabama judicial job.
(See this ad if you think anything has changed.)
So basically, Alabama could elect an apparently competent judge or the doofus who was removed from this job before for refusing to a key part of it.
God help us all.
How could it shake out?: No clue, but do not be surprised if Graddick and Moore end up in a runoff. Malone has really erred by being far too sane and professional of a chief justice.
Yes, I really did just write that sentence.
Chief opportunity for crazy Alabama rhetoric: Roy Moore’s likely horseback victory speech.
3. The Republican primary for Alabama’s 1st Congressional District
What’s a funny nickname for this race?: “Coastal Conservative Clambake”
Who’s in it?: U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, Dean Young and some other Tea Party guy named Pete Riehm
What’s the deal with this district?: This is the condo crowd who hang out on Alabama’s lovely and pleasant coastline. Jo Bonner, being a kind, gentle and long-lived sea turtle who swims to shore every two years to lay eggs of low taxes and general Republican promises, has long been the right kind of guy for the district—if only because, as a sea turtle, his potentially great age appeals to the elderly snowbirds that moved south for retirement.
But the Mobile and Baldwin County folks also have a pretty vehement and outrageous Tea Party crowd, as reflected by the hard right challengers that Bonner has faced the last two election cycles.
Why’s it a big deal?: The same anti-incumbency PAC gunning for Bachus has spent quite a bit to unseat Bonner, who appears to have largely refused to come ashore to defend his job this cycle.
In his absence, his competition has spent a lot—Young has plunged $190,000 of his own cash in the race to date—and said a lot that would be hard to take back if they were in a middle-of-the-road district of any sort, which they are not. For example, both Young and Riehm told a crowd of mouthfoaming Tea Partiers earlier this year that they would seek to draw up articles of impeachment against President Obama as soon as they got to Congress.
How could it shake out?: Expect Bonner to win in bunches, but a Young vs. Bonner runoff is not out of the question. Bonner being unseated would be a huge surprise, though, given how establishment friendly this crew of voters has been in the past.
Chief opportunity for crazy Alabama rhetoric: Judging from the impeachment thing, anything Young and Riehm say in public.
Reran Tragedy is Weld’s satirical blog about politics and life in Alabama and the South. The artist known as Cal Alabaster Jr., if that is his or her real name, may or may not also be the author of the Alabama humor blog called “King Cockfight.” If true, you may read Cal’s work there at kingcockfight.wordpress.com. You can also follow Cal on Twitter @KingCockfight or email Cal at firstname.lastname@example.org.