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Matthew Stokes: Marshall’s quiet, diligent service needed in AG’s office

By MATTHEW STOKES, Alabama Daily News contributor

Life is usually pretty slow in summertime as we try to manage the heat while awaiting the start of school and advent of football season.  Yet as Season 2 of Trumpworld trudges onward, we’re in the middle of a busy July.

This week’s announcement of a new Supreme Court nomination is very important, and the upcoming US-Russia meeting in Helsinki promises to be full of intrigue.  

Here at home, though, we’ve got a primary to finish, and while projections for voter turnout in next week’s runoff are embarrassingly low – seriously, folks, show up and vote – there are important races still to be decided. I offer some thoughts on the Lieutenant Governor’s race last week, but it’s the runoff for state Attorney General that is the most intense.  (Disclosure – my brother works on the campaign staff for Attorney General Steve Marshall).

Steve Marshall has been in the news lately, but for reasons no one would desire.  By now we’ve all heard of the tragic death of Marshall’s wife, Bridgette, and the awful circumstances around it.  While some media sycophants have tried to make a scandal out of this, all evidence points to a deeply sad, unfortunate tragedy. 

I think it’s fair to say that Marshall, his daughter, and their extended family still deserve a great deal of privacy in this matter.  While Troy King, Marshall’s opponent and himself a former AG, has offered nothing but public condolences, some of his supporters in the state’s media have done the dirty work of suggesting something nefarious was at work.  Voters of goodwill should reject this nonsense.

King has tried make noise regarding Marshall’s earlier affiliation as a Democrat, but anyone who has studied Alabama politics for more than a minute also realizes that this is not a very big deal.  Despite Alabama’s shift to the GOP in the last two decades, state Democrats still wield a decent level of influence, particularly in Marshall’s home turf of north Alabama, where loyalty to Democratic-leaning institutions like labor unions is particularly high.  

It’s no surprise that Marshall would have been a Democrat at the time, nor is it a surprise that he moved to the GOP as the national party made a hard shift to progressivism during the last decade. I’ll concede that if Marshall had a track record that aligned tightly with the Left, King would have a nice talking point, but Marshall doesn’t have the former, so King doesn’t have the latter.

Marshall’s greatest advantage, in fact, is that he quietly goes about his work, which is evidenced by the endorsement of so many fellow prosecutors.  In contrast, Troy King has worked overtime to appear tough, as evidenced by that menacing, bad cop look he wears in every campaign ad. Moreover, King has already been rejected by Alabama voters in 2010.  King’s tenure as Attorney General was not without controversy, as he consistently interpreted statutes in a manner that favored gambling interests.

While publicly expressing his opposition to legalized gambling, given the opportunity, it was rare that King’s office interpreted the law in a way that solidified those restrictions.  King’s insistence was, and remains, curious. I’ve said before that legalized gambling won’t be the end of the world if it ever comes to pass, but voters have so far made their opposition known at the ballot box. Given King’s track record, it seems likely that they will do so again.

As a final matter, we must remember what the election, as opposed to the appointment, of the Attorney General suggests. The appointment of the United States Attorney General by the President, and approved by the Senate, suggests two executive officials who are of like mind, in terms of both philosophy and policy.  

The election of the state AG does not allow for such a relationship. Indeed, a freely elected AG wields enormous power that may often be at odds with other parts of the state government, including the will of the voters long after the noise of election has quieted down.

For this reason, our state is best served with quiet, diligent service in the office.  There is no place for bombast in such an important position, and the media members who have quietly pushed rumor and conspiracy in support of Troy King suggest that a King office would be muddy at best, and devious at worst. Voters should reject this. There is little question; the safest and best choice is Steve Marshall.

Matthew Stokes is a writer living in Birmingham. Follow him on Twitter @yellingstopAL or email him at [email protected].

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