Poll shows Siegelman still viable candidate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2005

MONTGOMERY – Some fasinating and intriguing numbers came from a survey conducted last week by the Mobile Register and the University of South Alabama on whether Don Siegelman should be a candidate for governor in 2006.

The poll showed the people were almost evenly split on whether he should run after being indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged wrongdoing during his administration.

The poll showed 44 percent of the respondents felt he should not run, 42 percent said he should stay in the race.

Even more intriguing: When asked if they felt Siegelman would be convicted of the charges brought against him, only 20 percent of them said they felt he would be found guilty.

Be sure Siegelman grabbed that number and put his own spin on it, to wit: &8220;What we are finding is that 80 percent of the people believe that the charges are political.&8221;

It could be that the 80 percent who did not think he would be convicted were not necessarily clearing him but indicting the judicial system.

Certainly these polling numbers indicate that Siegelman is still a viable candidate, despite the cloud hanging over his head.

Keith Nicholls, the USA political scientist who directed the poll, said the numbers suggested that Siegelman &8220;is not in as bad a shape as one might think.&8221;

First it was Roy Moore who jumped on the bandwagon and very quickly he was joined by Don Siegelman and Lucy Baxley – all three of them are seeking to make a major issue out of a relatively new property assessment practice which was initiated during the Riley Administration.

For decades, property was assessed every four years for tax purposes but shortly after Gov. Bob Riley assumed office his Revenue Commissioner ordered the assessments to be made annually.

For years other commissioners had sought to make this change, insisting that the law required annual assessment to determine the &8220;fair market value&8221; of the property.

It is hard to argue with that logic. How many of you would want to sell your property for what it was assessed for four years ago?

After Siegelman agreed with Moore’s criticism of this policy, Lt. Gov. Baxley, not wanting to be left out of this debate, made a formal request of Atty. Gen. Troy King that he issue a ruling on the issue.

King declined to give an answer to her question, saying he was not authorized to issue advisory opinion on actions already taken.

Riley sought to close the door on this mini-debate by issuing a statement saying he could not &8220;pick and choose&8221; which laws to obey and that the law as now written requires annual assessments.

Be sure this issue is not dead.

Bob Ingram has covered Alabama politics for more than 50 years