GOP chief warns candidates against ‘pending battle’
Published 12:00 am Friday, March 22, 2002
BIRMINGHAM – With the war of words growing between gubernatorial candidates Steve Windom and Bob Riley, the head of the state Republican Party – without naming names – has asked all GOP candidates to be careful of verbal sparring in the party.
Marty Connors, in an e-mail to Republican activists on Tuesday, said, "Up to this point, I’m not sure if any of our campaigns have crossed the line, but…we’re getting close. In the fury of the pending battle, I do ask that every campaign weigh their interest, public rhetoric and reactions to rhetoric against the bigger task at hand. That is ridding the state of a currently corrupt administration."
Connors’ comments come after Windom released a TV ad accusing Riley of purchasing stocks that Riley’s congressional committee oversees. Riley, who called the ad "full of flat-out lies," said the stocks were purchased as part of a mutual fund over which he had no individual control. The two camps have also argued over poll numbers showing either side in the lead.
Connors, an outspoken political operative who recently accused state Rep. Jimmy Martin of snubbing President Bush in wartime by voting for the Democratic congressional redistricting plan, noted in the e-mail he is "not adverse to a little brawling, a little embellishment or a little one-up-manship." He noted his own wife had said he might have been "a little over the top" at times during his 1992 congressional campaign.
He said, "Primaries, even knock down-drag-out primaries, can be a good thing. Properly done, primaries are actually helpful to candidates. Sure, a given candidate will occasionally get a bloody nose and their constituents can get quite agitated, but when its all said and done, the give and take of a primary can actually inoculate the nominee from assault in a general election."
However, he added, "If there is something that needs to be aired out, lets do it within the family, with discretion, with class. Let’s not make any statement or create any innuendo that we can’t completely justify and prove. There is a point in time when the nobility of sumo wresting can degenerate into a World Wrestling Federation Cage Triple Grudge Match.
"We are not there yet, but we are flirting with the idea," he said.
Connors said he had been preparing to send the message at the end of qualifying, "but as the volume of rhetoric has already been turned up in many of our primaries, I felt it was time to get the message out now rather than later."
He noted some of his statements in 1992 were a mistake and helped neither himself or the primary winner, Congressman Spencer Bachus. "That is why we Republicans find such wisdom in Ronald Reagans softhearted 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican."
Connors said, "After June we must be united and focused on winning in November. Every Republican candidate must calculate just how far he can go in winning the nomination knowing that the losers of that primary will be needed for victory in the general election. I for one am more interested in defeating the Siegelman administration and keeping the First and Third Congressional Districts than choosing between feuding friends
"Take a powder, a deep breath. This is nothing but a family thing," he said.