Earlier this week, I noticed an item on the new chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, Mark Kennedy, who won the job after no one else sought it, probably because it is such a daunting one. Kennedy knows about daunting. The articles didn't mention this, but Mark Kennedy is the rare Democrat to have defeated Karl Rove, which he did in an epic Supreme Court race in Alabama in 1994. Kennedy was also the target of a breathtakingly vicious smear campaign that Rove orchestrated, and that I described in a 2004 Atlantic profile of Rove. Kennedy's job won't be easy--but anyone who can endure this sort of thing and prevail is made of pretty stern stuff (excerpt after the jump):
But no other example of Rove's extreme tactics that I encountered quite compares to what occurred during another 1994 judicial campaign in Alabama. In that year Harold See first ran for the supreme court, becoming the rare Rove client to lose a close race. His opponent, Mark Kennedy, an incumbent Democratic justice and, as George Wallace's son-in-law, a member in good standing of Alabama's first family of politics, was no stranger to hardball politics. "The Wallace family history and what they all went through, that's pretty rough politics," says Joe Perkins, who managed Kennedy's campaign. "But it was a whole new dimension with Rove."This August, I had lunch with Kennedy near his office in Montgomery. I had hoped to discuss how it was that he had beaten one of the savviest political strategists in modern history, and I expected to hear more of the raucous campaign tales that are a staple of Alabama politics. Neither Kennedy nor our meeting was anything like what I had anticipated. A small man, impeccably dressed and well-mannered, Kennedy appeared to derive little satisfaction from having beaten Rove. In fact, he seemed shaken, even ten years later. He quietly explained how Rove's arrival had poisoned the judicial climate by putting politics above matters of law and justice--"collateral damage," he called it, from the win-at-all-costs attitude that now prevails in judicial races.