State Of The State Address

2016 Alabama State of the State Address Tuesday night in Montgomery. State Senator Del Marsh during the State of the State address. Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star

Alabama Sen. Del Marsh says he’s not running for Congress. “I’m not running, and I’ve not made any plans to run,” he has told The Star. That may tamp down the swirls of conjecture. But it doesn’t answer this question: What’s up with Del Marsh?

The Marsh, R-Anniston, to whom we’re accustomed lives somewhat comfortably between his party’s extremists and his Democratic colleagues in the Statehouse. A centrist, if such a lawmaker exists in today’s politics. Even when we disagree with his politics — which isn’t infrequent — the Marsh we know is a champion of improvements in public education, a friend to the state’s small-business owners and a believer that horse-trading with Democrats isn’t a fatal flaw.

The Marsh we know is the Annistonian who recognized the value in investing in a local landmark, The Victoria, and using his personal wealth to create The Finial, a downtown hotel befitting of its place in Anniston history. On that reason alone, Anniston is better today because of Sen. Marsh.

But we’ve watched with surprise as he in recent months has moved drastically toward the extremes of his party, presumably in advance of a bid for the Republican Senate nomination. It’s an alarming development. And nowhere has that been more evident than on Marsh’s social media channels.

It’s there that the usually reserved Marsh has unleashed an unrelenting attack on U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Birmingham, and his policies. We wouldn’t have blinked an eye had Marsh aggressively and ethically disagreed with Jones on issues as divisive as abortion rights and immigration. That’s expected. But Marsh — or his social-media team — has attacked Jones with anti-abortion memes normally associated with fringe groups and extremist politicians on either side of the aisle. Such language is beneath the reputation Marsh owns.

In February, Marsh posted a Facebook advertisement that said, “STOP MURDERING BABIES,” and included this comment: “I proudly stand for life. Tell Doug Jones, killing innocent babies is wrong.” In March, Marsh posted a Facebook ad that said, “TELL DOUG JONES WE DON’T SUPPORT KILLING UNBORN BABIES.” Surrounding those are numerous ads calling for support of President Trump, the president’s effort to build a Mexican border wall, and protection of the Second Amendment and Alabamians’ gun rights, not to mention his regrettable bid to punt Common Core guidelines from Alabama public schools.

The rhetorical aspect of this question — What’s up with Del Marsh? — is clear, and it’s disappointing. Only Marsh and his confidantes know if recent polling showing the senator low on name recognition among potential congressional candidates (behind poll-leading Roy Moore, to boot) cooled his Washington aspirations.

Alabama needs ethical, stringent and bipartisan elected leaders. We’ve long considered Marsh to be one of those leaders. His pandering to his party’s extremes makes us wonder, though.