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GOP predicts ‘blue skies’ ahead

Features Editor

Marty Conners, executive director of the Alabama Republican Party, had a lot to say

about a lot of things Thursday, including the GOP’s chance to reclaim the governor’s mansion and the party’s off- and on- state senatorial candidate.

Conners was guest speaker at the Pike County Republican Committee’s luncheon yesterday and brought good tidings of things to come for the party and words of woe for former State Rep. Steve Flowers.

Conners said Gov. Don Siegelman was the first Democrat to "get lucky" since Gov. George C. Wallace and predicted a party change the next go around.

"I’m not sure we have done such a good job since 1986, but the Democrats have made some mistakes," Conners said. "Siegelman has surrounded himself with ethically challenged people and no one is working harder to elect a Republican governor than the Democrats."

Conners said the numbers are encouraging for the Republicans.

"Seventy-two percent of all statewide elected officials are Republicans," he said. "In 1986, the Democrats had 940,000 participants in the Democratic governor’s primary. The Republicans had 33,000. That has changed every four years. This year the Democrats will probably have about 350,000 participants while 620,000 people have said ‘no’ to the Democratic Party. We have a huge grassroots movement in the Republican Party."

Conners said one reason for the big party shift is that the Democratic Party is being driven by trial lawyers.

"According to records in the Secretary of State’s office, 60 cents of every dollar the Democrats raised in 2000 came from nine trial lawyer firms, Conner said. "It’s us against the ambulance chasers."

In predicting upcoming races, Conners said Sen. Jeff Sessions R.-Ala. appears to have a comfortable lead, but the governor’s race will come down to the wire "on our side."

"But, it’s too close to call right now between our candidates," Conners said.

Conners did give Siegelman a "A" for effort in bringing Hyundai to Alabama, but warned against too much optimism.

"Economic development is not one ribbon cutting," he said. "Daily activity is the core of business development.

Conners added that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,

Alabama is one of only three states that lost average personal income from 1998-2000.

"That was before the recession, so we don’t know what Siegelman’s legacy will be," he said, adding that Alabama is the eighth worst state in the separation of the rich and the poor.

The executive director of the Republican Party took a few minutes to mull over the dilemma facing the state Republicans regarding Steve Flowers who has been entangled in a legal battle over residency.

In a back-and-forth battle, the Republican Party removed Flowers from the ballot for allegedly not fulfilling residency requirements. Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price later ruled the Republican Party violated the law when it removed Flowers from the ballot.

"In the Republican party, we take residency seriously," Conners said. "The judge’s ruling never addressed the issue of residency and, in our opinion, the judge ignored 40 years of case law that allows parties to change their ballots after 50 days.

"A party must have flexibility. If it doesn’t, there wouldn’t be adequate time to do discovery. It is important to remember that political parties are private organizations and can set their own qualifications for candidates."

Conners said if Flowers stays on the ballot, the Republican party will make sure that voters know he is not a legally certified candidate.