Thursday, November 02, 2006

Birmingham Black & White Publishers Notebook

By Chuck Geiss
Birmingham Black & White
November 02, 2006

You know who Bob Riley and Lucy Baxley are, but have you heard of Loretta Nall, the Libertarian Party’s write-in candidate for governor?

If you are old enough to remember Ralph “Shorty” Price, Nall’s candidacy might seem similar. Price was a hard-drinking, “Bear” Bryant-loving, self-appointed Crimson Tide cheerleader who never missed a football game or the chance to run for governor. He was a perennial gubernatorial candidate in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and a free-spirited lightning rod for any voter interested in casting a protest vote against status-quo politics.

On the surface, it appears that Nall’s campaign antics pick up right where Price’s left off. Recent newspaper reports indicate that the centerpiece of her campaign is her cleavage. Campaign materials include T-shirts and marijuana stash boxes imprinted with the theme “More of these boobs” (Nall’s), “and less of these boobs” (Riley and Baxley). You can also visit her web site and learn why she doesn’t wear panties, or for a cash donation, get the opportunity “to meet the twins,” as she calls them. And though it would be easy to dismiss Nall as just another oddball candidate with a silly agenda, she does indeed have a platform and a story to go along with her candidacy, which she proclaims is fueled by neither an ego trip nor a bout of temporary insanity.

Nall claims her life changed on September 17, 2002, when agents of the Alexander City Police Department, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department, the Tallapoosa County Narcotics Task Force, the Marijuana Eradication Project, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation attempted to raid her house. One week earlier, she had taken a trip to Vancouver to visit Marc Emery, a well-known Canadian marijuana legalization activist, to learn more about political activism. Nall believes her Canadian visit made her an instant target of the authorities who instigated the raid without cause. Hovering helicopters and armies of police were turned away when she denied them access to her home after learning they did not have a warrant.

Weeks later, Nall founded the Alabama Marijuana Party, and one month after that, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department received a search warrant for Nall’s property on the basis of an alleged anonymous phone tip that she was growing marijuana inside her house. Her house was ransacked and, according to her, authorities seized her diaries, confiscated a variety of books and publications, and sifted through the ashes of the remains of her three-month-old son. After finding 0.87 grams of marijuana (according to Nall, a stem and three seeds), police called in the Alabama Department of Human Resources, whose agents declared her home unfit for her children. They informed her that if she did not have a place for the children to stay, the state would take them. The children were temporarily moved to a relative’s house 50 miles away, and Nall was later booked on possession of marijuana.

“When they kicked in my door, I said to myself ‘that will be about enough of that,’” Nall said. She announced her candidacy for governor on September 29, 2005, and has been actively campaigning ever since. She has not collected enough signatures to get on the ballot, and she has collected less than $25,000 in campaign donations, which has led her to use the internet and public forums to get her message out.

“While I don’t advocate drug use, I am a strong supporter of drug policy reform,” Nall says. “What the state did to me was a ridiculous use of assets. Besides that, it costs us $134 million a year to house non-violent criminals in our prison system, a prison system that is currently a real mess on all fronts.” After visiting South America, she is convinced that the U.S. drug policy is seriously flawed and a waste of money.

“I’m for naturalizing illegal immigrants that are already here,” Nall continued. “It is the only fiscally responsible thing to do because it would add them to our existing tax base. All other policies are based on racial politics, and we’ve had too much of that in this state.” Her platform also calls for the withdrawal of the Alabama National Guard from Iraq, giving tax credits for sending children to private school and home schooling, opting out of the No Child Left Behind Act, legalizing marijuana, and not complying with the USA-PATRIOT Act and the Real ID Act.

Nall might have remained in obscurity if not for political writer Bob Ingram, who included her story in his March 2, 2006, syndicated column, where he called her a “run for the fun of it” candidate. When it ran in the Montgomery Independent, Ingram’s column included a photo of Nall that been hand picked—presumably for its sexual appeal—by editor Bob Martin. One week later, Ingram included the following at the end of his column: “Allow me to express a personal note of appreciation to Bob Martin, the editor of this newspaper, for finding a picture of gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall to run with my column last week. I am sure it attracted a lot of readers. In 55 years of political writing, that was a first for me—a picture in my column of a woman displaying cleavage. I can only hope that my mother . . . and I know for a fact where she ended up in the afterlife . . . didn’t see that column. She wouldn’t have approved of that picture.”

In an instant, Nall became known as the cleavage candidate, but instead of fighting their remarks, she decided to take advantage of them. “At first I was upset about it, but we turned it into an advantage. And let’s face it, over-the-top campaign tactics work and they are working to my advantage now. I don’t have [money for] radio or television, so we’re going with what we have,” Nall said. “I think once people get over the initial impression, they tend to take me more seriously.”

Given that she probably won’t win the race, Nall has plans for the future. “We have been working on a medical marijuana bill in the state legislature that should have some traction in 2007. I’m interested in setting up a Court Watch citizen advocate program so the public can have a more transparent picture of what happens in our courtrooms. I’d like to change ballot access laws because the current system is hardly a fair and open process. And, I plan to run against third district Congressman Mike Rogers in 2008.”

Watch out, Mike. I don’t remember Shorty Price ever having that kind of long-term plan.

1 comment:

Bob Rainer said...

As an ex-pat from Alabama (currently in Texas and Michigan, temporarily), Nall is making me proud of Alabama. I suffered blitzkrieg attacks from the Birmingham police in the early 70s and it has left a sour memory ever since, even though growing up in Dothan and Opp was the best chilhood imaginable. This is my first exposure to Nall, but her take on things might get Alabama (beautiful but backwards in so many ways) back to being a livable situation. I might even come home.