Alabama tires of bad ads

MONTGOMERY &045; While the polls continue to show a near-deadheat between Gov. Don Siegelman and Congressman Bob Riley in the race for governor, on one subject the voters of Alabama are nearly unanimous: They are fed up with the constant barrage of attack ads being run by the two men on television.

Trackng polls indicate the voters have heard all they want to hear about Siegelman’s no-bid contracts and Riley’s tax problems.

Because this is so, and because the candidates surely can interpret the polling numbers like everyone else, you may see a change in strategy by one or both of the candidates in the closing weeks of the campaign.

You may see less mud-slinging commercials and more commercials in which issues are addressed.

As to the race itself, the polls continue to indicate an election that will go down to the wire.

Several weeks ago, the Siegelman numbers appeared to get a bounce in the wake of the Charlton Heston fiasco &045; he came to Alabama to raise money for Riley but while here endorsed Siegelman &045; but in the ensuing days Riley edged back in front by a point or two.

As noted here before, a critical factor in the outcome will be voter turnout, and most especially the turnout among black voters who since winning the right to vote in the 1960s have historically and overwhelmingly voted Democratic.

Even the Democratic nominee for the U. S. Senate, Susan Parker, has expressed concern that Siegelman is not doing enough to fire up the party’s core supporters &045; union members, teachers and blacks.

In an interview with the Huntsville Times, Mrs. Parker said she was &uot;picking up vibes&uot; that there is not much enthusiasm for the election among blacks.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, who has been a thorn in Siegelman’s side for months &045; he has called the current administration &uot;the most corrupt&uot; in years &045; has also expressed concern about lack of interest by blacks in this year’s election.

&uot;There’s less motivation in the black community than I’ve seen since I’ve been in politics,&uot; Holmes said.

How important is the black vote in a statewide election?

Black registered voters number about 535,000 according to records in the Secretary of State’s office.

That is about 24 percent of the total vote.

In a race as close as the governor’s contest seems to be, Siegelman will need every one of them if he is to win a second term.

For what it’s worth, the Birmingham News is the first major daily newspaper to take a stand in the governor’s race.

The News has endorsed Riley, saying he is the candidate who offers &uot;the most hope&uot; for the state.

The News used the words &uot;missed opportunities&uot; in assessing Gov. Siegelman’s administration, saying in part: &uot;… his failure to use his considerable skills to tackle Alabama’s considerable problems, coupled with troubling ethical lapses that led to investigations … make Siegelman a less than ideal choice for re-election.&uot;

The other major dailies are expected to declare their preferances in the immediate future.

The Mobile Register, far and away the most frequent critic of Gov. Siegelman, seems certain to endorse Riley; the Montgomery Advertiser will probably endorse Siegelman.

The Huntsville Times has not shed any editorial clues as to what direction it will go.

It’s a funny thing about editorial endorsements.

Candidates would kill to get one, but when they don’t they insist they never wanted it in the first place.

This is a bit far afield from the political scene but it is too good a story not to share.

Almost 20 years ago, Jack Warner … the wealthy top man at Gulf States Paper Co. in Tuscaloosa … attracted national attention when he vigorously opposed the admission of women at his alma mater, Washington and Lee University.

Warner at the time was serving on the W&L Board of Trustees and he resigned from that board to wage what proved to be an unsuccessful fight against the schools plan to go co-educationa.

A few weeks ago, the 85-year-old Warner gave $1 million to Washington and Lee and he was most specific on how the money should be used: to endow scholarships … for women students