Alabama Scene

Graddick leads fundraising in Chief Justice race



Mobile Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick is the fund-raising leader in the race to become the Republican nominee for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Records kept by the Secretary of State’s office show Graddick has raised almost $350,000, closely followed with $269,515 by incumbent Chief Justice Chuck Malone. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore had raised $78,000, records showed this past week. At this writing it appears there may be no Democrat or independent candidates for the state’s highest judicial post. Qualifying for the Democrats ends this Friday.

Graddick’s campaign manager, Skip Tucker, says the campaign hopes to raise more than $1 million for the race. That’s well below the previous fund-raising totals for this judicial office in recent years.

Campaign reports show that $50,000 of Moore’s money was contributed by Michael Peroutka, a Maryland lawyer and the Constitution Party’s candidate for President in 2004. He is also affiliated with an organization that calls itself the League of the South and is headquartered in a community near Florence in northwest Alabama.

Peroutka once stated that it “may be hazardous to your mental health if you believe the word ‘Republican’ is, necessarily, synonymous with ‘Christian’ and/or ‘conservative’” and has produced a detailed response to what he calls “President Bush’s totally predictable rebuke of Christian conservatives who voted for him.” He also has suggested in his writings that several Bush judicial nominees, including former Alabama Attorney Gen. Bill Pryor, were not pro-life or against “judicial activism” because all of them pledged to enforce Roe v. Wade.

I haven’t seen any quotes from him about Democrats but suspect they would be much more harsh. He and his brother practice law in Maryland and he has a replica of Moore’s Ten Commandments statute at his farm.

Moore was quoted last week saying he will not accept campaign contributions from special interests and that so far his contributions have come from those who believe in what he stands for. He was removed as chief justice in 2003 for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Heflin Torbert State Judicial Building.

Moore has said that none of the money he has received has come from special interests. He has said he doesn’t think judges should get special interest contributions because the donors always look for something in return.

I suppose he doesn’t consider his buddy, Mr. Peroutka, to be representing a special interest.

Graddick has already been on the air with advertising and expects to get a boost from name recognition. He is a former attorney general and lost a close race for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1986 to Bill Baxley. Graddick actually had the most votes but the State Democratic Party ruled he had violated primary rules by encouraging Republicans to “cross over” and vote as Democrats. The State Supreme Court told the Democratic Party to hold another election or pick Baxley. The party picked Baxley.

Graddick has also received a hefty campaign donation… $10,000 from Alabama Power Company.

Malone left a circuit judge position in Tuscaloosa to become chief of staff for Gov. Robert Bentley. He was appointed chief justice by Bentley after former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb resigned last summer.

The fundraising period was shortened because of this year’s early party primaries with voters scheduled to go to the polls March 13 rather than in June.

Costly smoke We are told the state general fund could be in a deep hole…a $400 million chasm next year. Nobody has stepped forward yet to propose a solution to this problem except to raise the tax on cigarettes. Two lawmakers will be offering bills to do that: Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, proposes increasing the per-pack tax from 42.5 cents to 75 cents, which would raise roughly $75 million a year for the General Fund. Rep. Joe Hubbard, DMontgomery, has filed a bill that would raise taxes on cigarettes by $1 a pack and bring in an estimated $230 million a year. Smokers now pay 42.5 cents per pack, the fifth-lowest among the 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The median tax in the country is $1.29 per pack. Raising the per-pack tax to 75 cents would move Alabama to 15th-lowest in the nation, a rate that would not be out of line with our surrounding states; Mississippi at 68 cents per pack, Tennessee at 62 cents per pack, Georgia at 37 cents per pack, Florida’s at $1.33 per pack. Raising Alabama’s per-pack tax under Hubbard’s proposal to $1.42 would rank the state at the 23rd-highest level nationwide.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: