Is Marion's influence a factor for Spivey?

Friday, January 13, 2012

History only seems to repeat itself to those who don't pay attention to details.

One of America's best news commentators said so when quoting one of his history teachers.

Still, believing words engraved in stone at the National Archives - Past is Prologue - leads folks to study history.

It's worthwhile, as indicated by Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart's explanation of what happened to him nearly 20 years ago. Stewart's office is in Winchester.

State House Speaker Ed Murray (D-Winchester) decided against running for re-election in 1990.

This political history is relevant to Marshall County Republican Party Chairman Billy Spivey of Lewisburg who in 2010 sought the House seat retained by Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect). Giles County voters effectively re-elected Bass while most of Marshall County voters backed Spivey. He's now considering another run for the House in a district anchored by Marshall County with parts of Lincoln, Franklin and Marion counties.

Anyway, in 1990, there was a three-man race for the Democratic nomination to run for the seat Ed vacated. Stewart was one. Another was Kenneth Stinson. Franklin County Realtor Billy Rigsby was nominated.

In the 1990s and earlier, a Democratic nomination meant election in Franklin County. Republicans didn't hold primaries there for local races. Rigsby was elected to the House.

What's relevant to Marshall County is the Democratic primary when Rigsby landed a lot of votes in Marion County, the place that now has the eastern-most territory of the new House seat being considered by Spivey.

Redistricting, or reapportionment - that's the realignment of political lines to equalize the population as represented by each lawmaker in a legislature - is required by the U.S. Constitution, as is the U.S. Census every 10 years.

Marion County was split by the recent Redistricting Committee on Capitol Hill in Nashville. For 10 years, all of it was in a district. Now, the southern part is in a district that includes Marshall, Lincoln and Franklin counties. During the 1990s, Marion was split.

"That was because of Shelby Reinhart," Stewart said, recalling the lawmaker's ability to kill legislation. "He was the Black Hole Committee king," who sent bills to a committee that took ideas and studied them to death.

The 1990 election brought "a change of guard for Marion County," Stewart said, accepting the defeat as "probably the best thing that ever happened to me." He ran for county mayor and has been there ever since. Stability in such a position is important. Experienced executives are more effective.

Now, there's speculation that Marshall can elect one of its own to the state House because it's not divided like Marion, Franklin and Lincoln counties that make up the rest of the new 92nd House District.

"I know about this," Stewart said. "I have Marion County experience. I hate what's happened and I'm concerned about Franklin County." Rural Franklin County residents in "Huntland, Keith Springs and Sherwood ... won't get the representation that they should get."

Many are from Alabama. You can't drive to some parts of Sherwood without going through Alabama.

Could a county divided by a legislative district line be at an advantage because county residents might see themselves as having two representatives?

"That could happen," he replied, "but the majority of people won't look at it that way."

It might give them something to vote against.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.