Now that Roy Moore has said once and for all that he intends to remain in the Republican Party
, it's clear that voters will be treated to a real debate in the upcoming gubernatorial primary. Thank goodness for that...I was getting a little concerned. If Moore had dropped out or had decided to run as an independent, our only entertainment from now until the June primary would have been on the Democratic side, with Lucy "you-couldn't-find-my-position-if-I-had-a-GPS-in-my-head" Baxley taking on Don "heading-to-an-Alabama-Slammer" Siegelman. Now, it's true that Don has a few ideas (think lottery
), but a well-known law of physics states that you can't hold a debate in a vacuum, and that's one law that even Don Siegelman can't break.
Gov. Riley and Roy Moore, on the other hand, are both
"idea men," both with well-defined platforms stating where they want to take the state. On Tuesday, Moore gave a taste of how he plans to frame their differences, even going so far as to question the Governor's commitment to Republican principles:
(B'ham News) "The people of this state need true Republican leadership, and we're not having it now," Moore said, citing Riley's 2003 failed tax-increase referendum. "Higher taxes, bigger government is not the Republican philosophy." ...
"I believe in the principles of the Republican Party. It is not I who has deserted the Republican Party. It is they who have deserted the Republican Party," he said.
I honestly don't think that this kind of rhetoric is going to get Moore very far. Along with the vast majority of Alabamians, I voted against the Amendment One tax and accountability package in 2003. I think that it was a major blunder, both politically and as a matter of public policy; but, the Governor's recent actions indicate that he has learned from that mistake. He has come out strongly in favor of cutting taxes by raising the income tax threshold, increasing the personal exemption, and raising the level of deductions. He says he would support allowing Alabamians to vote on whether they want their property values to be reappraised every year or every four years. This year, as he has done throughout his term as Governor, he proposed a budget that was both fiscally sound and consistent with the principles of limited government.
It's also important to remember that back in 2003, the state was facing a fiscal nightmare; there were no
good options. It's true that Gov. Riley chose the worst possible
option - the largest tax increase in state history - but, he adamantly insisted that the entire package be voted on by the people, even though several of the tax increases could have been passed without one. And the package wasn't just about tax increases. It included several government accountability provisions that were good ideas at the time, and that remain good ideas today.
After Amendment One's defeat, the Governor started over again by insisting on steep budget cuts with no major tax increases, and within a year and a half, the growing economy had led to an unprecedented influx of revenues. For small-government low-tax types, Amendment One turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Its resounding defeat at the polls sent an unmistakable message to Montgomery that Alabama voters were in no mood for broad-based tax increases, thereby increasing the political price to be paid by anyone who would dare propose such a thing again.
That brings us to today. The state budget (one of them, at least: the Education Trust Fund) has a large surplus, and the Governor has suggested using this rare opportunity to allow taxpayers to keep more of their own money instead of sending it to Montgomery. I would say that the Governor has done quite enough penance since 2003 for the Amendment One debacle, and my guess is that most Republican voters will think the same thing.
Even so, Judge Moore's presence in the race should be welcomed, in my opinion - it is good for conservatism and good for the state Republican Party. In politics, as in life in general, contentment leads to boredom, which in turn leads to the kind of sloth that afflicts liberals and Democrats so much these days. Then, before you know it, every-damned-body around you starts acting like Frenchmen
. So, bring it own, Judge Moore. Let's see a good fight.