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Ideological Cleansing: The State of the Alabama GOP

  |   By: Steven Boydstun     |   Opinion

There was a day when “Republican” was a four-letter word in Alabama. And it was not as long ago as some people may think. Alabama Republicans had to basically enlist whoever was willing to join to help build their base in an almost completely Democratic state. We talked a few weeks ago about the switch that took place over time and that the parties have essentially changed in name only.

This past weekend, some candidates who have filed to run for office as a Republican have been challenged. The Alabama GOP Executive Committee began hearings to address petitions filed by those challenging a candidate’s credentials or ideology.

Most challenges come from GOP candidates receiving campaign contributions from the Alabama Education Association. While most interest groups that were historically Democrat-backing have started funding mostly Republicans after the Republican sweep of 2010, the AEA is one of the only groups to continue to maintain its purpose in aiding Democrats and breaking the Republican majority in the State House.

The problem is several Republicans have taken money from AEA. Just as recently as the 2010 governor’s race, the AEA contributed to Gov. Robert Bentley’s campaign. In my view if Rep. Bradley Byrne — who was by most accounts the leading candidate — had not come down so hard against the AEA he would have won the governor’s race. Instead, the AEA-backed retired-dermatologist-turned-legislator came out of nowhere and won the brass ring.

Will the ALGOP seek to remove Governor Bentley from the ballot this election? He is, after all, “one of them,” at least by their standards.

An AL.com article highlighted two of the most glaring cases of Republican in-fighting.

James Hall of Mobile is being challenged in his bid for the Alabama House of Representatives District 64. The challenge comes from Mobile resident David Preston, who cited Hall’s previous run for Congress as an Independent as grounds to challenge Hall’s Republicanism.

Preston also said Hall made statements on Facebook during his candidacy, such as “If we don’t fight against the establishment of elite politicians, we will never get this country headed in the right direction.”

We could argue about this all day, but I believe if George Wallace were beginning his political career today he would be a Republican. He would be a Republican because his only real ideology was victory at all costs. But Gov. Wallace ran for president as an Independent, and when he lost, he continued to be a Democrat and nobody seemed to care. By today’s standards he would be shunned for disloyalty.

Baldwin County attorney Ginger Poynter’s candidacy has been challenged by Baldwin County Republican Party Vice Chairman John Stetzinger. He cites Poynter’s open support of and financial contribution to Democrat Bob Vance in Vance’s 2012 race against Republican Roy Moore for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as grounds for her to be unsuitable to run.

Stetzinger wants to say Poynter is not a Republican because she did not endorse a candidate who has been removed from office for failure to follow a court order. This is despite the fact she has been registered as a Republican in Texas, North Carolina and Alaska.

Deeper into the realm of the absurd, Poynter went on to say that she has been “accused of being more right than Attila the Hun” in an attempt to illustrate her conservative street cred.

Are we really living in a state where anyone left of Attila the Hun is a liberal communist hippie? Is that the standard now?

It appears the ALGOP is engaging in an ideological cleansing of sorts to make sure their candidates are not the least bit moderate or independent thinkers.

It is clear they have no intentions of being a “big tent” party. Apparently, they’ve never been to an SEC tailgate before, because if they had, they would know big tent parties are where all the fun is had.

Follow Steven on Twitter at @skboydstun

Steven Boydstun holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Troy University (Troy) and a Master of Public Administration degree from The University of Alabama. Views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of his employer or any other affiliate.