"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

No truer words have ever been spoken.

I am worried that the Alabama Republican Party is forgetting the past and what events led to the rise of their party in Alabama. The year was 1986. The Democratic Party was in control. It was time to pick a successor to George Wallace, who had dominated Alabama politics for two decades. Lt. Governor Bill Baxley had been waiting in the wings since the early 1970s. He had served as Attorney General for two terms and was now Lieutenant Governor. He was ready to ascend to be Governor.

Baxley led a crowded primary field but his successor in the AG’s office, Charlie Graddick, garnered enough votes to force a runoff. To everyone’s surprise, Graddick defeated Baxley in the runoff.

The powers that be in the Democratic Party went to work and overrode the peoples’ choice and declared Baxley the victor. They cited ineligible crossover voting as the reason for the loss even though only 33,000 Republicans voted in the primary. There is no party registration in Alabama, so they claimed the impossible to prove: crossover voting.

Republican Guy Hunt, the Republican nominee, was only an afterthought. At the time, only three Republicans served in the state Senate and only eight in the House. There had not been a Republican Governor for 114 years.

The Democrats did not realize what the right to vote and to choose candidates meant to Alabamians. They completely ignored their voters’ wishes, and in the general election, Republican Guy Hunt destroyed Baxley with a vote of 696,000 to 539,000 to become the first Republican Governor of Alabama since Reconstruction.

Fast forward to 2022. The Republican Party is dominant, but now they are acting like Democrats of the eighties. They are meeting behind closed doors and choosing who is “Republican enough” to be on the ballot.

This is a slippery slope. Party insiders should not be deciding who should be on the ballot, especially after the campaign has already begun and candidates are spending time and resources on their campaigns. To make matters worse, paid consultants are often involved in the process.

The Alabama Republican Party is Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” party. The Republicans in Alabama welcomed conservative Democrats into the party as the national Democratic Party moved farther and farther to the left. The Democrat Party’s philosophy is unacceptable to Alabamians and that’s why they fled the party in droves.

Until Alabama becomes a party registration state, everyone should be welcomed to run as a Republican and let the voters make the choice during the primary. 

The term “smoke-filled room” was coined by newspapers covering the 1920 GOP convention. At the convention, party bosses chose Warren G. Harding to be the Republican nominee in “smoked-filled” back rooms, not on the convention floor where it should have been decided.

Any process where the party is governed by the elite and party insiders must be stopped. The vote of the people should always prevail.

Perry Hooper is a former Alabama Representative and currently president of Hooper and Associates in Montgomery. He was the Alabama Trump Victory Chairman in 2016 and an Alabama Trump Team Leader in 2020. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.