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May 17, 2022

Meet the ‘yellow cardinal’ in Alabama governor’s race

AL.com Published: May. 17, 2022, 10:29 a.m.

By J.D. Crowe | jdcrowe@al.com

Courtesy of AL.com By J.D. Crowe | jdcrowe@al.com | Lew ‘Rare Bird’ Burdette

Disclaimer: This opinion cartoon is subject to change if/when this Burdette character starts kissing Trump’s butt, blessing Biden’s heart or pandering to the fears of voters.

Lew Burdette is a rare bird in today’s nationally politicized war zone. In his campaign for governor, the Republican businessman/rookie politician has no appetite for name-calling, kissing up to Trump or pandering to the fears of a right-wing base. Just real Alabama issues, please.

In a governor’s race where front-running incumbent Kay Ivey, Tim James and Lindy Blanchard appear to be running against President Joe Biden instead of each other, Burdette’s campaign is focused on state issues.

Burdette got so frustrated with the lack of attention to Alabama-specific issues that he said during a recent candidates’ forum, 

“Am I the only person who is in this race who cares about Alabama issues?”

“They bristled and got mad at me,” he said. “But the candidates in this race are talking like their commercials.”

“It just breaks my heart that when I left the University of Alabama 40 years ago that we were at the bottom in education, health care, and prisons, and here we are 40 years later and not one statistic is any better,” Burdette said when asked why he decided to enter a political race for the first time. “We don’t have 40 more years to waste.”

“Yes, we’re frustrated with Washington,” Burdette told Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser. “Yes, I’m going to stand up against all that stuff. But we got to talk about Alabama issues and moving this state forward.”

Getting heard in time could be a challenge. The primary election is a week away and Burdette is quietly moving up to around fourth place in the polls.

“The other three candidates have been spending millions and the biggest voter block is still undecided,” he said. “Why? Because they hadn’t found me yet.”

More about Burdette’s story from Brian Lyman’s interview:

Lew Burdette can speak of the horror he experienced on Dec. 27, 1974 in an almost matter-of-fact way.

He was 15 years old and leaving his father’s grocery store in Roanoke for a date when two teenagers, who planned to hold him for ransom, grabbed him at gunpoint and forced him into a car. They drove him to a field where Burdette was pistol-whipped, beaten and stabbed. The two teenagers then threw Burdette into well. One fired a pistol into the well four times; a bullet struck the back of his head.

Burdette somehow survived, and slowly climbed out of the well, praying the whole way. Bleeding from his wounds, he made it to a nearby house, where he got help, and saw his attackers come through the door; it was the home of one of their grandparents.

Almost 50 years later, the bullet from that night remains lodged in his chin.

“It’s been some interesting dental conversations along the way, when they take X-rays and say ‘Uh, do you know you’ve got something?’, ” he said.

But Burdette, seeking the Republican nomination for governor, did not speak of his attackers with any vindictiveness. He said they served their time and avoided further brushes with the law, “so that’s a great testimony to those guys.”

“God just showed me that they were young and did something in really poor judgment,” he said. “And you know, they got caught up in the moment, they got really scared, and that’s what they testified.”

That attitude could suggest the reasons for some of the notable elements of his platform.

No one would mistake it as anything but Republican. It is anti-abortion rights and pro-gun rights, and talks about cutting taxes and regulations. In an hourlong interview, Burdette criticized Gov. Kay Ivey’s support of a gas tax increase in 2019 and suggested she engaged in “vaccine shaming” in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic in Alabama, which has killed nearly 20,000 Alabamians over the past two years.

But Burdette’s platform also includes lengthy sections on improving mental health care, and improving educational and rehabilitation opportunities in state prisons.

“I want to see everybody succeed in life, you know, and I don’t want people to lose hope,” he said. “So often in prison, let’s just say, they’re left there to rot.”

Read all of the Burdette interview here

I don’t know this Lew Burdette fellow. But our tribal political landscape would be easier to navigate if more politicians shared Burdette’s focus on real issues. And moving Alabama forward – away from the nonsense.

This state needs more yellow cardinals.

JD Crowe is the cartoonist for Alabama Media Group and AL.com. He won the RFK Human Rights Award for Editorial Cartoons in 2020. In 2018, he was awarded the Rex Babin Memorial Award for local and state cartoons by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Follow JD on Facebook, Twitter @Crowejam and Instagram @JDCrowepix.