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State Democratic Party brings back Turnham as chairman

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The Alabama Democratic Party brought back Joe Turnham of Auburn as party chairman Saturday, with Turnham pledging to crisscross the state to re-energize what was once Alabama's dominant political party.

"My office is going to be a Chevrolet Impala," Turnham said.

The State Democratic Executive Committee met in Montgomery on Saturday to overwhelmingly elect Turnham in a race against former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones of Birmingham. Turnham replaced Redding Pitt, who resigned after four years as party leader.

Turnham served as party chairman from 1995 to early 1998, when he stepped down to make an unsuccessful race for the U.S. House against Bob Riley, who's now Alabama's Republican governor.

Executive committee members said the 2006 race for governor did not figure into the election of a chairman, even though Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley had called for a new party chairman after Democrats lost every statewide race in 2004 and former Gov. Don Siegelman had hired Jones as one of his attorneys.

"Neither discussed a choice they had with me," said Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association.

Neither Baxley nor Siegelman attended Saturday's meeting.

In addition to choosing Turnham as party chairman, the Democratic Executive Committee created two party vice chairmanships representing labor and filled them with Hubbert and Stewart Burkhalter, president of the Alabama AFL-CIO.

The creation of the labor positions comes after the Alabama Republican Party ran ads in February criticizing Hubbert and after the party's executive committee voted not to take any more campaign contributions from AEA.

About 170 of the 272 members of the State Democratic Executive Committee members attended Saturday's meeting.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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