Will moves of governor hurt him?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2002

MONTGOMERY &045; While the battle over who won the governor’s race continues unabated, another question being raised is how long can Don Siegelman continue this fight before he inflicts permanent political damage on himself?

At what point does he become the &uot;sore loser,&uot; at what point does he become … as one has already said … &uot;Al Gorish&uot;?

As of this writing, the demand for a statewide recount is in the collective laps of the State Supreme Court.

The court is not expected to hear oral arguments until after the election returns are officially certified by Secretary of State Jim Bennett on Wednesday (Nov. 20).

If the court upholds the advisory opinion issued by Atty. Gen. Bill Pryor that the ballot boxes cannot be unsealed, at least one man of some political clout thinks that would be the time for Siegelman to toss in the towel.

Dr. David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama whose constituents are many of the same people who supported Siegelman &045; teachers and state employees &045; says if the court should rule against the governor it would be time to call it quits.

&uot;In the event of a ruling unfavorable to him by the Supreme Court, for him to persist after that … to carry the issue to the Legislature … could be damaging to his future career,&uot; Bronner said. &uot;And he is young enough to have a political future.&uot;

Dr. Bronner said he had talked to Siegelman by phone on several occasions since the election.

&uot;My advice, for what it was worth, was that if he had some real evidence to turn around the results then go for it,&uot; Bronner said.

&uot;But I told him if that all he had was the Baldwin County mistake … and that is all that it was … then it was time to quit.&uot;

Still a possibility is that Siegelman, even if rebuffed by the courts in seeking a re-count, could contest the election and drop this political hot potato into the laps of the Legislature.

But even in that Democrat-dominated assembly, he has received little encouragement.

The top two Democrats in the House of Representatives &045; Speaker Seth Hammett of Andalusia and Speaker Pro Tem Demetrious Newton of Birmingham &045; both have urged Siegelman not to bring the disputed election to the Legislature.

They voiced their opinions after a closed door Democratic caucus in which both men were re-nominated to serve in the same legislative capacity in the next administration.

Speaker Hammett said he &uot;didn’t find anybody&uot; among the Democrat House members who wanted to play any part in resolving this bitter dispute.

&uot;They think the court is the way to go,&uot; Hammett said.

Speaker Hammett has far more at stake in the Siegelman-Riley donnybrook than most.

It is no secret that in 2006 he would like very much to run for governor, and the last thing he wants is to be caught in the middle of a no-win situation in the current governor’s race.

In an election and an election-aftermath that has been as unpredictable as any in state history, foolishly I will make a prediction:

Secretary of State Bennett will certify on Wednesday that Bob Riley won the election; the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday on the re-count issue; that court will expeditiously conclude that Atty. Gen. Pryor’s ruling was appropriate … and at that time Don Siegelman will concede defeat as graciously as he can.

That Siegelman would continue this fight beyond that seems inconceivable.

Editor’s Note: This column was received at the end of last week, before incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman decided Monday to concede defeat to Gov.-elect Bob Rile