Thursday, November 17, 2005
On this day:

Democrat Sue Bell Cobb to challenge Nabers for Alabama Chief Justice

MONTGOMERY - Democrat Sue Bell Cobb, a judge on the state Court of Criminal Appeals, said Tuesday she will ask Alabamians to disregard party labels, examine her qualifications and elect her chief justice of the state Supreme Court next year.
It's no wonder that Judge Cobb is asking voters to disregard party labels. When it comes to electing appeals court judges, Democrats have not fared well in recent years. As recently as 1994, Democrats held every seat on the state Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals. Today, Judge Cobb is the only one left.

In an interview last year, Judge Cobb attributed the Democratic losses to the Republican Party's superior public relations and fund-raising efforts.

"We've got to win the public relations war. The Republican Party, with their great resources, have convinced the people that to be a good judge you've got to be a Republican," [Cobb] said in an interview.

In 1994, business groups brought in presidential adviser Karl Rove, then a little-known Texas political consultant, to start changing the makeup of Alabama's appellate courts. Rove helped buzz words like "tort reform" and "activist judges" become part of Alabama's political jargon.

The change in Alabama's courts began slowly, with Perry Hooper Sr. getting elected chief justice after an election dispute that dragged on from 1994 through most of 1995.

More Republican victories came in 1996, and they've continued every election since then.

Cobb also criticized former Alabama Democratic Party chairman, Redding Pitt, for spending too much time in 2004 working on the Kerry campaign rather than devoting party resources to candidates for statewide office. She became one of the first elected Democrats (if not the first) to call for Pitt's replacement as party chair.
"What Democrats in Alabama need is a Democratic Party chairman who cares as much about electing Democrats on the state level as on the national level. . . . He was never here. All his time was spent working on the Kerry campaign," she said.
Unlike many of her fellow Democrats, Cobb seems to recognize that her party's perceived aversion to religion is one of its biggest problems, particularly in Alabama.
"Those other Democrats who truly care about Alabama have got to find a way to convince Alabamians that Republicans do not have a monopoly on faith. My Christian faith motivates me to do so much," she said.

While she is plainly a die-hard Democrat, Judge Cobb put partisanship aside to publicly endorse President Bush's nomination of former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Of Pryor's nomination, she said:

I write, not only as the only statewide Democrat to be elected in 2000, not only as a member of the Court which reviews the greatest portion of General Pryor's work, but also as a child advocate who has labored shoulder to shoulder with General Pryor in the political arena on behalf of Alabama's children. . . . Bill Pryor is an outstanding attorney general and is one of the most righteous elected officials in this state. He possesses two of the most important attributes of a judge: unquestionable integrity and a strong internal moral compass. . . . Bill Pryor is exceedingly bright, a lawyer's lawyer. He is as dedicated to the 'Rule of Law' as anyone I know. I have never known another attorney general who loved being the 'people's lawyer' more than Bill Pryor. Though we may disagree on an issue, I am always confident that the position is a product of complete intellectual honesty. He loves the mental challenge presented by a complex case, yet he never fails to remember that each case impacts people's lives.

And this...

"He does not go out and craft law....He wants law where you adhere to precedent because when it comes to the law, it's not politics," said Cobb, who's worked with and known Pryor since his days as an assistant state attorney general.Though Cobb admits there are issues on which she disagrees with Pryor, she maintains: "I am always confident that his position is the product of complete intellectual honesty."

Judge Cobb could be a very tough challenger for the Republican nominee, likely to be either Chief Justice Drayton Nabers or Associate Justice Tom Parker. Parker, who led the "Roy Moore slate" of court candidates in 2004, has not yet announced whether he will challenge Nabers in the Republican primary.

Cobb represents the best the Democrats have to offer. If someone like her can't win statewide against a lackluster candidate such as Nabers or Parker, it would mean disaster for the Alabama Democratic Party. Now, wouldn't that be fun to watch?

Judge Cobb's web site is here.