Party leaders react to shifting politics

Published 8:32 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The election results Tuesday night heralded a shift in party power on local, state and national levels.

But are the results a sign of good changes to come, or a potentially harmful by-product of growing disappointment in government?

It depends on who you ask.

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An Associated Press report on Wednesday said in the election voters across the country expressed their uneasiness and anxiety for the state of national politics against a tide of joblessness and foreclosures. For some, it’s almost a new state of being.

But with the hardships comes a new excitement among voters, said Dr. Sam Shelton, associate professor in Troy University’s political science department. When things aren’t going their way, people tend to react.

“I do see a lot more interest in what government is doing in the average citizen,” he said.

As for party cooperation, the outlook isn’t sunny.

“I wish I could be more optimistic that there will be less partisanship, but I don’t see that happening,” Shelton said.

He added that with the shift of national power to the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives, there could be powerful conservative changes in policy and legislation.

In Pike County, the polls saw a rise in straight-ticket Republican voting, leading to the usurping of local Democratic mainstays, such as state Sen. Wendell Mitchell, who had served for more than 20 years.

Pike County Democrat Chairman Jerry Williams said he believes some politicians lost their positions primarily because of the shift in politics and not because of the candidates themselves.

“I think a lot of good qualified candidates were defeated because of the national trend,” he said.

Republican Bryan Taylor defeated Mitchell in Pike County by 19 ballots, according to the most recent reports. His loss may equal a loss of project donations and political care for the county, Williams said.

“He’s a gentleman and as needs arose he made every effort to meet those needs in the community,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if any of that continues, or if it all goes away.”

Pike County Republican Chairman Adam Drinkwater said the shift in parties is not only a sign of good things to come, but also a cry for an end to corruption in the state and a return to conservative values throughout the country.

“It appeared voters were ready for a change, not only at a national level but also at the state level,” he said.

On the state level, Drinkwater said the shift of power in Montgomery will raise the blinds and open the windows on political dealings.“Across the state we’ve got a change forming,” he said.

Taylor has said that one of his first acts in office would be to push a broad ethics bill. It’s the type of transformation that Drinkwater said he believes will move the state forward.

“I think we’re going to see some change in disclosure,” he said. “The problems that we’re seeing with the gambling bill and legislators purportedly being bought off for their votes — those things are going to be a lot harder to do behind closed doors.”

But now that Pike county has lost Mitchell and U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, who frequently traversed the district, Williams expressed the concern that Pike County’s needs may not be met anymore.

Bright received 580 more votes in Pike County than GOP challenger Martha Roby, but Roby squeaked by him in other counties to win the 2nd Congressional District seat.

“Those are two quality candidates that got defeated simply because of the Republican tsunami,” he said. “I think the biggest fear for Pike County is that we’re going to be either left out or overlooked.”

Drinkwater said he believes Roby’s election is simply a sign of what people have wanted for years.

“I think that speaks to the real heart of the district,” he said. “They want to put the brakes on the Pelosi-Obama-Reid agenda,”

Williams said he’s more interested in improvement than towing party lines. That being said, he’s still waiting to see if the Republicans will be able to deliver.

“They’ve made a lot of promises to the people, and I’ll be watching to see if those promises cash in,” he said. “The hope with the House of Representatives and new leadership in state is that they can bring forth ideas that they promised.”

They will, according to Drinkwater.

“I think this is the first step in reclaiming Republican values for the nation,” he said. “I think you’ll see this trend continue in 2012.”