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Sue Bell Cobb says new book isn’t campaign tome

“There Must Be A Witness” By Sue Bell Cobb



Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, running as a Democrat for governor next year, has a new twist on the common practice of major candidates publishing a book just as their campaigns start.

Today, New South Books announced the publication of There Must Be a Witness, a book about “child advocacy” co-written by Cobb and former Anniston Star reporter Nick Cenegy.

Traditional “campaign books” are either puffed up candidate biographies (or autobiographies) or erstwhile campaign issue platforms masquerading as reform treatises. This one is a little of both, but not entirely either one — sort of a “hybrid-plus.”

The reason it’s different, Cobb told me, is that “this was not written in anticipation of the campaign.” Instead, she said, she and Cenegy began writing the book four years ago, as a project growing out of her work on the board of the advocacy group Alabama Children First.

The press release says that There Must Be a Witness “profiles a group of advocates in Alabama who have devoted themselves to fighting to help children thrive.” (Yes, Cobb herself is one of — but only one of — the advocates whose stories are told, in the course of telling the stories of the children whose cases outraged or inspired them.)

During her years as a juvenile court judge, a court of appeals judge, and chief justice, and her work at Alabama Children First, the release says, “she was humbled by the inspiring group of child advocates she met digging firebreaks against poverty, child abuse and neglect, inadequate medical care, and shortcomings in education. Collectively, the stories included in this volume call us to stand witness and testify to policymakers on behalf of children.”

“The goal of the book,” she told me, “is that we hope the reader will become more engaged as a citizen and outspoken on issues involving children.”

Cobb says the book has an “Afterword” that provides ten policy ideas that, “if fully funded,” could help alleviate the problem of child abuse.

(Yes, that part certainly does sound like at least part of a ready-made campaign platform.)

Until Cobb resigned as chief justice in 2011 (she said it was to devote more time to her family), she had been the last remaining statewide official elected as a Democrat, always running under the colors of a “business-friendly” centrist. On the Supreme Court, she clearly was more liberal than her eight Republican colleagues.

Cobb faces a spirited multi-candidate race for the Democratic nomination next year, and, if she wins that, a battle against a Republican nominee likely to be the betting favorite.

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