By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox Saturday won a key endorsement Saturday from the Alabama Democratic Conference, the state’s largest African-American political organization, as he seeks to win the Democratic primary for governor.
The group gave the nod to Maddox over former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, one of the last Democrats to win statewide election in the now GOP-dominated state.
Maddox is attempting to consolidate support from major Democratic groups as he runs against Cobb and former state legislator James Fields in the June 5 primary. The ADC endorsement can be a powerful boost to gubernatorial hopefuls and other contenders for elected office. The group distributes thousands of sample ballots before elections, backing the candidates it endorses.
“It certainly gives us another step in the right direction as we head to June 5th,” Maddox said in a brief interview after winning the endorsement.
“As we begin to focus on the fall, this election is about Alabama’s future. Who is the best candidate to lead Alabama in this 21st-century technology driven economy? I believe we are that candidate and I believe we are the best opportunity within the Democratic Party to take back the governor’s seat,” Maddox said.
Maddox has also won the endorsement of the New South Alliance, another mostly African-American political organization.
It has been almost 20 years since a Democrat was elected governor in Alabama. The competitive gubernatorial primary is a sign of party members’ newfound optimism heading into the 2018 elections, after Sen. Doug Jones’ history-making win in December, when Jones became the first Alabama Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in a quarter century
Cobb, who resigned from the bench in 2011, said she was, “very disappointed, but not surprised.” Cobb figured she didn’t have the best chance to get it “because of the iron grip of Dr. Joe Reed,” the group’s longtime leader. Cobb has said Reed has too much control within the party.
“People who know me well, know I’m running for the right reasons and I will be the most independent governor from all special interests because I’m running to make things better for children and families,” Cobb said.
Reed, responding to Cobb’s criticisms, said Saturday that he was not on the endorsing committee.
“I’d say her support for Jeff Sessions hurt her more than anything else,” Reed said.
Cobb called her backing of the Republican senator’s nomination for U.S. attorney general a measured endorsement, because of Sessions’ support of her effort to establish drug courts in the state when she was a judge.
In the Democratic primary for attorney general, the ADC endorsed Chris Christie over Joseph Siegelman, whose father, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, was the last Democrat elected to the governor’s office in Alabama.