McPhillips made big mistake

For those of us who make a living writing about and talking about politics and elections, we would be remiss if we didn’t drop a thank-you note to Julian McPhillips, one of the contenders in the Democratic run-off for United States Senate.

Were it not for McPhillips, we would have had little to write or talk about during this lack-lustre second primary.

His contest with current State Auditor Susan Parker is the top attraction on the June 25 ballot, and in an interview on the day after the first primary, McPhillips gave the press all the fodder it needed to fill up a lot of space in the newspapers and a lot of time on the TV newscasts.

In fact, he has spent the remainder of the abbreviated three-week campaign trying to explain what he really meant to say.

First off, he said that the expected a number of people who voted Republican in the first primary to cross over and vote for him in the Democratic run-off.

Before saying that, he should have placed a call to Charlie Graddick, who in 1986 openly solicited Republican crossover votes in his gubernatorial runoff with Bill Baxley.

Graddick won the run-off, but shortly thereafter he was stripped of the nomination by the party because although it is allowed in the Democratic party, crossover voting is not allowed in the Republican party.

McPhillips, realizing his goof, said he meant to say he expected to get conservative Republican votes in November in the General Election.

But it was his shot at Mrs. Parker for not having any children which stirred up the biggest tempest.

McPhllips said being the parent of three children, he was far better qualified to be U.S. Senator.

Mrs. Parker had what proved to be a withering response: she said that after suffering a miscarriage during her first pregnancy, she was advised by her physician not to have children.

The fallout from this unfortunate exchange has been devastating for McPhillips.

Newspaper editorials, letters to the editor, callers on talk radio have eaten McPhillips’ lunch.

Late in the campaign, McPhillips toured the state accompanied by his wife, trying to put out the fire, but it seemed only to fan the flames.

Comes to mind an old truth: In politics, nothing is oftentimes the best thing to say.

While McPhillips and Parker were providing all the fireworks in the run-off campaign, the two party nominees for governor were already slugging it out toe-to-toe even though their confrontation is still more than four months away.

On primary election night, after winning the Democratic nomination,

Gov. Don Siegelman issued a challenge to GOP nominee Bob Riley to meet him in a series of debates.

Both his challenge and Riley’s subsequent acceptance of the challenge raised political eyebrows.

That Siegelman would issue such a challenge was a clear indication that he was concerned about Riley.

Can you imagine George C. Wallace ever issuing such a challenge to any of his opponents?

In fact, Wallace laughed in the face of those who challenged him for a debate.

No less surprising was Riley agreeing to such a debate.

Thanks to his long experience, Siegelman is far better informed on matters of state government than Riley, and being a lawyer who is trained to be quick on his feet in verbal confrontations, he would be a solid favorite to prevail in a debate.

Riley however regained the edge a few days later when he said he would insist the first debate be limited to the issue of honesty and integrity in government.

He said he wanted to talk about no-bid contracts and that sort of thing.

This, in turn, provoked a howl of protest from the Siegelman camp. Still undecided at this writing is if and when there will be any debates but most likely there will be at least two.

Did the voter turnout in the party primaries on June 4 bode well for the Democrats?

Democrats outvoted Republicans by more than 78,000 votes on June 4 which prompted Democratic Chairman Redding Pitt that this suggested a Democratic sweep in November.

GOP officials scoffed at Pitt’s claim, saying that the bigger vote by Democrats was due to the fact that there were a lot of local races for sheriff, County Commission and other offices in Democratic counties which resulted in a heavier turnout