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Alabama editorial roundup

June 13, 2018

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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June 11

Tuscaloosa News on Walter Maddox being a formidable gubernatorial candidate:

Don’t be surprised when Walt Maddox is elected governor in November. What seemed impossible not that many months ago - a Democrat winning election to a statewide office in Alabama - now seems imminently doable.

This is not a prediction. Alabama has long been a red state and has been deeply red for at least a decade, considering the Republican Party’s overwhelming dominance in statewide elections. Over the last two quadrennial election cycles, Republicans have captured supermajorities in the state House and Senate after being in the minority in both since Reconstruction. And until Doug Jones’ victory over Roy Moore in the special U.S. Senate election last December - under highly unusual circumstances — no Democrat had won a statewide race in Alabama since 2008.

Most recently, out of the nearly 900,000 votes cast statewide in Tuesday’s primaries, about two-thirds were for Republicans. So why would anyone believe Maddox has a chance to overcome this imposing GOP monolith?

Let’s start with Jones. Sure, his victory over Moore was a fluke, but he was not a flake candidate. Although Jones is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, his career as a lawyer and federal prosecutor yielded scant political fodder and he stressed a believable willingness to work across the aisle that to some Republicans made him a palatable alternative to a flawed opponent. At the same time, rank-and-file Democrats were motivated to turn out at the polls for him and now they have proof that they can make a difference.

The circumstances for Maddox, while not identical, are similar enough. He has deep Democratic roots and has acknowledged his liberal leanings, but municipal elections are non-partisan and he has governed Tuscaloosa in a way that has won him broad support across the ideological spectrum. Some might question his willingness to spend tax dollars, and he has not shied away from traditional Democratic positions during his gubernatorial campaign, but when spending translates into economic growth and a better quality of life for everyone, without reaching further into taxpayers’ pockets against their will, well, Republicans might find it difficult to hang the usual labels on him.

Clearly, Maddox has been laying the groundwork for this run for his entire political career, and he has proved to be a formidable candidate. We were familiar with him in Tuscaloosa, but, quick, who’s the mayor of Montgomery? Of Mobile? No, this was no accident. Maddox’ chief primary opponent, Sue Bell Cobb, had already won a statewide election and probably began the race with more name recognition, and he trounced her.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Ivey will be a tougher foe, to be sure. Like Maddox, she fended off multiple opponents to win without a runoff Tuesday, and she has run the campaign one would expect - espouse the party line and otherwise try not to screw it up. Certainly, she’s the favorite; the odds for any Democrat remain long. In the age of social media, however, when public opinion can turn on a tweet, November is a long way off. That’s plenty of time for a game-changing gaffe or surprise. And given the stark contrast between the younger Maddox, 45, who would upset the status quo, and Ivey, 73, a career politician who represents the Montgomery establishment, it’s not that hard to imagine voters opting for change, especially in today’s volatile political climate.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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June 13

The Gadsden Times on the Miss America pageant dropping the swimsuit competition from the final competition:

Old-timers probably heard — or maybe even said — these six words an awful lot during the glory days of print publications: “I buy Playboy for the articles.”

The late Hugh Hefner’s magazine actually and regularly contained some top-notch journalism; a compilation of its famous interview series could seriously be used as a history book.

But get real — we all know the motivation of 99.9 percent of the people who bought or subscribed to Playboy.

And while organizers always protested (a little too much) that beauty pageants really were about empowering women, we also know the motivation of a goodly number of viewers in the same bygone days when TV ratings for pageants were high and the results were front-page news. Don’t lie — you didn’t run to the fridge for refreshments during the swimsuit competition, and you didn’t gripe a couple of decades ago when those swimsuits became bikinis.

The most famous pageant of all, Miss America, actually started in 1921 as a parade of “bathing beauties” to draw tourists to the boardwalk and beach at Atlantic City, New Jersey.

No more.

Pageant officials announced last week that the swimsuit competition is being dropped from the final competition, although it won’t disappear from all local and state pageants until 2019. Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and Fox News host who now chairs the pageant’s board of trustees, said, “We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you.”

Instead of donning swimsuits, contestants will, according to organizers, interact with judges to “highlight (their) achievements and goals in life and how (they) will use (their) talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America.”

Contestants also will be permitted, if they choose, to wear something besides a gown in the evening wear competition.

Part of this is a reaction to last year’s scandal involving emails by former pageant officials that lambasted contestants’ appearance, intelligence and sex lives. Those folks lost their jobs and the top three spots in the pageant’s leadership now are held by women.

Part of it is changing times. Women in the #MeToo era rightfully are tired of being objectified and rated on their looks rather than their smarts and skills. Except for one woman who said getting into swimsuit shape involved discipline and healthy habits, which certainly are positive concepts, the news was greeted with applause by former Miss Americas and pageant contestants. One mentioned how “awkward and uncomfortable” it was to walk around on stage in a swimsuit and high heels.

The past motivations we cited also have changed. Pageant organizers say these days, the talent competition gets higher ratings than the swimsuit competition.

So few mourners are bemoaning this move. We see it as a positive step and hope other pageants follow Miss America’s lead.

Will it boost the pageant’s ratings, which are roughly a sixth of what they were 30 years ago? Probably not; there are too many other TV options in 2018.

Will it silence critics of pageants in general, who see them as sexist and an anachronism? Probably not; the philosophical disagreements there transcend bikinis.

Is it the right thing to do? Yes; the bathing beauty aspect actually is an anachronism that has long passed its expiration date.

Besides, you can still cheer for your state’s representative or another favorite contestant. Just bring “what makes her her,” as Carlson put it, into the equation, and don’t make it all about easiness on the eyes.

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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June 12

The Dothan Eagle on a young elected official:

Each year around this time, thousands of teenagers experience the rite of passage that comes with the graduation from high school. Some have plans ahead; others are still trying to figure it out when they don their caps and gowns. Most have apprehension as they leave a routine they’ve known for 12 years and peer ahead into the wide expanse of their futures.

Weston Spivey hit the ground running long before he’d graduated from Ridgecrest Christian School a few weeks ago. He’d been working in the family business, and had so impressed people in his community that he’d been approached about running for public office. He was 17.

Now 18, he became the state’s youngest elected official when he defeated incumbent Geneva County Commissioner Bryan Hatton for the District 1 seat.

That in itself is an awe-inspiring feat. But while many of his peers are thinking of other endeavors, Spivey is brainstorming strategies for economic development of the county he calls home, and his logic is impressively sound.

We congratulate Weston Spivey for the initiative and dedication he put into winning the trust of Geneva County voters. We expect he’ll carry that work ethic with him as he approaches the difficult work of governance.

Online: http://www.dothaneagle.com/

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