Alabama Democrats up against the clock for gubernatorial candida - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Alabama Democrats up against the clock for gubernatorial candidates

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It's been said that success breeds complacency. For decades, the Democratic party dominated state politics. Today, the political climate has done a complete 180. Not a single Democrat holds a statewide office in Alabama. To top it off, we're less than a year away from party primaries, and no Democratic candidates have announced their bids for the state's highest office, the Governor's seat.

Whether there is hope for the party depends on who you talk to. Some are optimistic candidates will come forward and have a good shot a winning. Others say they want to put up a good fight, but that 2014 will likely not be their year.

One thing they all seem to agree on is this: The party has some work to do if it wants to improve their standing.

"I think maybe the democrats became a little too comfortable, didn't work as hard as they once worked. And now we're having to go back to that, really getting out the important issues to people," said Nancy Worley, acting chair for the Alabama Democratic party.

Worley says the Alabama Democrats became a little lazy, and that's largely why Democrats are struggling to regain a foothold in Alabama.

"Democrats were at one time basically the only party. Winning the party primary was tantamount to being elected in this state. And when we became a two party state, I think people have adjusted to that more, and they're beginning to look at the platforms of the two parties," said Worley.

As of February 2013, according to a Gallop Politics Poll, more than fifty percent of Alabamians call themselves conservative.

The uphill battle for democrats is only made worse by internal issues. A few months ago, worley declared the party was broke. That was shortly after former chairman Mark Kennedy left the party to form his own grassroots organization, the Alabama Democratic Majority.

"I made the determination that my energies and my focus on wanting to build a larger and broader base of democrats throughout Alabama, would be better served if I in fact left the party but still remained active in democratic party politics," said Kennedy.

Kennedy insists he supports Democratic ideals and candidates. But he admits, the party is going through troubling times.

"Could things be better as it relates to the status of the state party? Absolutely. But is the problems that they're having going to define whether we can elect democrats? Absolutely not," said Kennedy.

Speaking of elections, the primaries are less than a year away, and November 2014 is fast approaching.

"We're going to focus first of all on defeating the super majority in the Alabama house and senate. Right now Alabama democratic members of the legislature have no voice," said Kennedy.

Then there's this. No Democratic candidates have stepped up to run for the Governor's seat. It's a huge difference from the 2010 gubernatorial race when Democratic candidates were campaigning a year and half prior to elections.

"I think we'll have some good candidates step up to the plate. I don't know how many yet, but I think we're going to have some formidable candidates," said Worley.

Kennedy could only name one person.

"I don't think that it's a surprise that Sue Bell Cobb has evidenced an interest in considering running," he said.

So what does a lack of Democratic presence mean for Alabamians? Worely says it means the Republican Party will continue to gain votes by pressing hot button, controversial issues.

"The Republicans use some emotional, hot button issues to target people," she said.  

Alabama Republican Party Chairman, Bill Armistead, had this to say.

"I think the democrats are just looking for excuses for why they are not performing and why they can't get voters to vote for them," said Armistead.

Armistead believes it will be difficult for Democrats to find a serious contender for the gubernatorial election. But this would be his approach if he were in their shoes.

"The Democrats are likely to focus their efforts in 2014 on a few selected races. At least that's what I would do, so I suspect they'll go after a few legislative seat they think they can pick up," said Armistead.

Kennedy says it boils down to this.

"We sat down and became lazy and we did not go out and start organizing people and engaging people."

We reached out to Sue Bell Cobb. She would not say whether she plans to put her name in the hat for Governor. However, she did say she appreciates the support she has been getting encouraging her to run. However, she is not ready to make a public statement at this point.

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