Baxley to fight for power

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2003

MONTGOMERY &045; Mention was made in this space last week that there were a couple of &uot;firsts&uot; about Bob Riley &045; he is the first man from Clay County to be elected governor; he is also the first sitting Congressman to be elected to that office.

I can make mention in this space this week that Lucy Baxley has a couple of &uot;firsts&uot; as well &045; the well-established fact that she is the first woman elected lieutenant governor … and most assurely she is the first woman elected to that office from Pansey.

And already I can hear two questions from you &045; where on earth is Pansey and where did it get its name?

Because I would like to think I render a public service with this column, I have the answer to both questions: Pansey is a tiny little community in Houston County on U.S. Highway 84 southeast of Dothan.

As to its name, you will be relieved to know it was named for Pansey Crosby, the daughter of John Crosby, who in 1890 was appointed the first postmaster of that town.

But the point of this column is not where Lucy Baxley is from but rather what role will she play in the State Senate during the next four years.

If you keep up with such things, you know that for a number of years, the lieutenant governor reigned supreme in the upper house.

So much so, that many powerful groups in Alabama were far more concerned about who was elected to that office than the office of governor.

That all changed in 1999.

Don Siegelman, who as lieutenant governor had been little short of a dictator as far as the Senate was concerned, wasn’t about to let his successor &045; Republican Steve Windom &045; wield the same power.

Windom was totally neutered by the Democrat majority in the Senate.

With the election of Baxley, a Democrat, as lieutenant governor, many wondered if the Democratic-controlled Senate would restore to that office the power it once had.

Would Sen. Barron and his buddies be willing to give up the clout they had enjoyed for four years?

The answer to that question came in the recent organizational session, and it was a resounding &uot;no.&uot;

There has been a lot of sweet talk &045; a lot of public embracing between Barron and Baxley about sharing power.

Even some members of the press have bought into this idea that they the two will have equal clout.

Because Baxley is a Democrat and because she is a woman, Barron and his supporters aren’t about to do anything that suggests they are abusing her … but … when things get down to the &uot;lick log&uot; in the Senate … when it’s put-up-or-shut-up time on critical issues … put your money on Sen. Barron.

He may not have the gavel but he has the biggest stick.

As of this writing, Gov. Riley has filled most of his Cabinet positions and while the team may be short on hard-nosed political/governmental experience it is long on honesty and integrity.

This has caused some segments of the daily press … still miffed at how the gubernatorial election turned out … to cluck their editorial tongues in dismay.

What does a former CEO of a major corporation know about running an agency of state government? How can they possibly work with the Legislature?

They are, no doubt, in for some surprises and frustrations … having been there and done that I can attest to that. But until proven otherwise, Gov. Riley deserves high marks for the team he has assembled.

A passing comment on the inauguration which was little short of spectacular, thanks to the weather.

Having covered everyone of those changes in command since 1954, I can remember none so blessed by Mother Nature.

Gov. Riley’s speech was like most inaugural speeches. As I said on TV, perhaps too unkindly, his speech would not be included in a book of the Top 100 Speeches of the Year. But nobody expected it would be.

It was a feel good, warm and fuzzy speech … like most inaugural speeches.

The best line of the day came from Bill Pryor after he was sworn in as Attorney General, although not many seemed to pick up on it.

Sounding reminiscent of George Wallace’s defiant speech at his inauguration in 1963, Pryor promised &uot;equal protection under the law today, equal protection under the law tomorrow, equal protecton under the law forever.&uot;