Cullman County resident Joe Copeland finished a distant third to Democratic Party front-runners Lucy Baxley and Don Siegelman during last week’s gubernatorial primary and he couldn’t be more pleased.
For most candidates, finishing third in your party’s primary would be a major disappointment, but not Copeland, who prefers looking on the bright side.
“I feel pretty good about it considering I finished third behind the incumbent lieutenant governor and a former governor and ahead of four other candidates,” said Copeland, a former Blount County school teacher and business owner who retired and moved to the Bremen area of southwest Cullman County about 10 years ago.
In fact, Copeland says he feels so good about the election results that he would seriously consider running again if the right office came along.
“I’ve received several e-mails and calls from friends and fellow Democrats congratulating me on my third place finish in the primary,” Copeland said. “Nathan Mathis, who finished fourth just behind me, put a lot of money into his campaign and I beat him by about 150 votes. I don’t think Harry Lyon and some of the others campaigned a lot.”
The final results showed Baxley collected 278,735 votes or 59.86 percent of the ballots cast to Siegelman’s 169,528 votes (36.41 percent).
Copeland placed third in the primary with 4,132 votes or .89 percent of the vote. Others receiving votes in the governor’s race included Mathis, 3,992 votes (.86 percent); Katherine Mack, 3,392 (.73 percent); James Potts, 3,367 votes (.72 percent); and Harry Lyon, 2,489 votes (.53 percent).
Copeland said limited finances prevented him from doing as much advertising as he would have liked to do.
“I attended a lot of rallies and political events. I didn’t have the money to do a lot of campaigning, but I did manage to pass out a few bumper stickers, T-shirts and buttons,” Copeland said.
And who knows? A shift in a few votes here and there and a Siegelman conviction could possibly have landed Copeland in the No. 2 spot and into a runoff.
“Had Lucy not gotten 50 percent of the vote and if Siegelman had been convicted maybe I could have squeaked into a runoff. Wouldn’t that have been something?,” Copeland said. “As it is, hopefully my message resonated with the voters.”
His message, for the most part, focused on what he sees as state government’s greatest flaw, which is the influence paid lobbyists have in determining this state’s political agenda; and what he sees as Alabama’s greatest social concerns — illegal immigration and overpopulation.
“What I feel should be the most immediate concern for state government and what underlies all the problems of our state government is our exponential population growth,” Copeland states in his position letter. “According to the Census Bureau, our population will increase from 4.4 million to 5.2 million, an increase of 800,000 by the year 2025. This will be equal to adding the number of individuals who presently reside in Jefferson and Calhoun counties combined.
“These numbers do not include the increase in the number of illegal aliens who will settle in our state during that period,” Copeland said. “This huge increase in our population will affect our quality of life and create an increased tax burden for current citizens.”
Copeland says each child born today will be a burden on the taxpayers of our state for the next 20 or so years, until that child is employed and becomes a taxpayer. All the funds for a child’s education, he said, as well as the need for increased infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads must be paid by existing tax payers.
The obvious answer to this dilemma, Copeland said, is to work on the demand side of the equation.
“I feel that our increasing numbers is not only a social and taxation problem, it really is a moral problem. If it is immoral to contribute to the hardship or our fellow man as well as our fellow creatures that share Earth with us, then to contribute to overpopulation is truly immoral,” Copeland notes in his position statement. “The best thing we can do to enhance the quality of life of our children and grandchildren is to have fewer of them.”
As governor Copeland said he would have rewarded responsible parenting and would have made it a priority to curb the number of unintended pregnancies and the number of abortions performed, and unwanted children born as a result. To achieve this he says he supports state-funded free contraceptives for all persons, male and female, including free vasectomy, tubal ligation, intrauterine (IUD) devices, and free birth control medication.
“I call on those individuals who are opposed to abortion and to everyone who, like myself, is appalled at the number of incidents of child abuse in our state to support this program as a practical way to reduce both,” Copeland said.
Copeland said he is hopeful Baxley will win in November and oust incumbent Gov. Bob Riley. If she’ll listen, he’d love the opportunity to discuss some of his ideas with her.
“I support the ticket. We’ve got some really good candidates and some excellent female candidates,” Copeland said. “Susan Parker, a candidate for Public Service Commission, is a wonderful lady as is Sue Bell Cobb, who is running for chief justice. Those are two people we really need to elect.”
The lieutenant governor’s race is an interesting one, Copeland said.
“I don’t like the idea of having a lobbyist as our lieutenant governor, so hopefully George Wallace Jr. will win the Republican runoff to set up a Wallace vs. Jim Folsom Jr. race in the fall with Little Jim coming out on top,” Copeland said.
Asked if he’d ever consider running for office again, Copeland said he might if the situation was right.
“I’ve had some encouragement to run for state representative in this area. I wouldn’t do that, however, unless someone decided to retire,” Copeland said. “I’ve even had people ask me to consider running against Congressman (Robert) Adderholt, but I don’t see that happening. The thing is, I don’t have a desire to go to Washington.”
At age 65, Copeland said he is content to have run the state’s highest office.
“I’m retired and I have a couple of motorcycles I enjoy very much. I also like to bird watch and there wouldn’t be a lot of time for either of those interests if I was elected to Congress,” Copeland said. “But the state house — that’s another matter.”
Copeland says he intends to work behind the scenes to support the party ticket in November and in particular he will be working in support of Parker and Cobb.
“I plan to campaign for them every chance I get whether its at meetings I attend or in one on one conversations and through e-mails,” Copeland said. “I’ll probably get more active as we get closer to the general election.”
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