While at an Alabama Eagle Forum banquet on Friday night, I was fortunate enough to grab a few minutes alone with 2010 Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James. While James doesn't have a long and padded political resume, he's the son of former Governor Fob James and is well known in conservative circles in the state. He's been significantly increasing his public appearances and media exposure, of late.
When I had the opportunity, I asked James if I could ask him a quick question. "Sure," he replied. The question I lobbed at him was whether or not he would absolutely commit to not increasing taxes if elected governor.
"No problem," he responded. "Got a tougher one?"
I pitched the second question a bit harder, but his response came as quickly as the first one. I asked if he'd commit to not increasing state spending. "That's easy," he said. "You got a tough one for me, now?"
"Okay," I responded, and threw him a bit of a curveball. "Would you mind signing a pledge to this effect?"
"I'd love to...," he stated. Later on, we set up a telephone call to deal with speaking arrangements for an upcoming event and the pledge issue.
While it's still early and the field of probable candidates for Alabama's 2010 gubernatorial race is already lengthy, I expect James to be the only viable fiscal conservative with a reasonable chance of winning both the primary and general election.
On the Republican side, I expect (at this time, it's still very early and there are a lot of possible candidates) to see James, State Treasurer Kay Ivey and former Judge Roy Moore as the leading candidates in the GOP primary. Ivey will likely get the backing of many of the "machine" players, but James will probably get some of their support, too. Moore has a small but very active base of volunteers, but they won't nearly be enough to win a primary -- and he's far too polarizing on social issues to come close to winning a general election, even in Alabama. What Moore has the power to do to keep James from beating Ivey in the first round of a primary election, though.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, I expect (at this moment, at least) the key competition to be between Congressman Artur Davis and Lt. Governor "Little Jim" Folsom. Like James, Folsom is also the son of an Alabama governor. He's a bit underwhelming but his name carries a lot of clout around these parts.
Last Election Day, I participated in a televised panel/debate with Davis, another congressman and a reporter. Aside from the fact that Davis was Obama's state campaign chair, his speaking style and general impression can be Obama-like, as well. If he's polling well enough, he'll be able to attract campaign donations from national sources. How strongly race will play into 2010 Alabama Democratic politics is still up in the air, though.
Primarily because of draconian ballot access laws in Alabama, there probably won't be a serious independent or third party challenge.
Alabama gubernatorial politics are colorful and very tough to predict this far in advance. While Alabama was one of six states which voted for Goldwater in 1964, they reelected (by a two-to-one margin) the same Republican who proposed a major tax plan they defeated by the same margin a few years prior. With the first African-American serving as president, the possibility of his state campaign chair (who has been cut from a similar bolt of cloth) becoming a serious contender isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Spending time in prison or having a son (or wife) emerge as a political leader isn't unheard of, either. Also, Jefferson County (Birmingham area) is not only Davis' congressional turf, but it is also the largest municipality facing financial insolvency in the country. Like the federal government, it has spent too much, spent much of it unwisely and now the bills have come due. Whatever the outcome the race, these factors should make the upcoming political contest in Alabama very interesting.
However, should the final contest end up being between Folsom and Ivey, I'm not sure who'll win -- but I'd throw my money down on very low voter turnout. It would probably be a boring contest with the same-old politics. If it's James against either Folsom or Davis, the race will not only be interesting but also be a test of conservative messaging in the age of Obama.
If conservatives are truly serious about retiring the same old post-Republican Revolution vanilla politics and really want an energetic, enthusiastic, fresh, new conservative voice which can also beat the Democrats, it might be worth your while to keep your eye on Tim James.
UPDATE: It looks like the folks over at the American Prospect don't like taxpayer pledges and don't get TheNextRight:
... but the real point here that the praise of this approach is appearing at Next Right. Not to ascribe monolithic views to a group blog, but I get how this stance is on the Right -- I just don't see where the "next" part comes in. Watching conservatives go through what progressives did six years ago is interesting, but they don't seem willing -- yet -- to grant their candidates the virtue of flexibility, as the netroots has consistently done.