Everyone’s seen who won the races, but now that the dust has settled, here’s a deeper look at Alabama’s biggest winners this election cycle.
School choice advocacy groups have flocked to Alabama in the wake of the Alabama Accountability Act — the state’s first ever school choice law — believing that there will be opportunities to further expand education opportunities and to reform the state’s much-maligned-but-improving public education system.
The election’s results ensure that school choice will be one of the top priorities of the ever-growing Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate.
Robert Bentley’s swagger
The results of the Alabama gubernatorial election were such a foregone conclusion that the AP called the race the minute the polls were closed. Bentley cruised to re-election, garnering 63.63% of the popular vote, well ahead of the 57.45% former Gov. Bob Riley received in his successful re-election bid in 2006.
Bentley said frequently throughout his re-election campaign that he does not want to be a “caretaker governor,” and it was clear from his victory speech that he believes the voters have given him a mandate to lead. The governor has been consistently popular since taking office in 2011, but his critics often say he hasn’t asserted himself on tough issues. On Tuesday night, he sounded like a chief executive who wants to really drive the ship.
Although that hasn’t really been his M.O. over the last four years, his election night swagger suggests he might be taking a different approach going forward.
Republican Legislative Leadership
Del Marsh and Mike Hubbard laid claim to their place in Alabama political history in 2010 by leading Republicans to the promised land. But as significant as that was, their second act may supplant it as the more impressive political feat.
In the same anti-incumbent year that saw the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives toppled by an unknown, seemingly-overmatched challenger, Hubbard and Marsh overcame much more difficult circumstances to not only secure their own re-election, but to also lead Republicans to unexpected gains in both chambers.
Within minutes of his win, Marsh was already talking policy priorities for the next quadrennium, clearly signaling that Republican Legislative Leaders feel — similarly to Bentley — that they’ve been given a mandate to lead.
The conspiracy theorist in me sometimes wants to believe that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith’s incessant calls for more gambling opportunities in Alabama were designed to simply make an incremental step in that direction more palatable to the state’s conservative electorate.
Gov. Bentley has already signaled that he’s open to cutting a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to allow them to expand the types of gambling offered in their three casinos. In exchange, the state would receive tax revenue from the casinos’ operations, which would go toward patching the giant hole in the General Fund Budget.
It would be easy to call the Poarch Creek’s “losers” for dumping $1.5 million into Joe Hubbard’s ill-fated attorney general campaign — ok, yea, they were losers for that — but with higher taxes totally off the table and few realistic solutions for the state’s budget shortfall, it looks like they may end up being winners after all.
Alabama Business Groups
The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) got out ahead of other groups in Montgomery by going all-in on the GOP’s efforts to takeover the Legislature in 2010. As a result, they’ve enjoyed a unique relationship with Republican legislators, especially the large freshman class elected in 2010.
Going into the 2014 cycle, BCA huddled with other allied business groups — like the Realtors and Truckers associations — and agreed to coordinate their efforts in an unprecedented way. Most notably, that meant pooling their financial resources. It paid off big time.
With very few exceptions, the candidates backed by the business groups won on Tuesday, once again securing their place as a very influential coalition over the next four years.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead
If a Party Chairman’s tenure is judged solely by his party picking up seats while he was in office, it’s hard to say Armistead’s not a winner.
Internal strife on the Party’s leadership committees has persisted non-stop, and his critics are quick to say they believe Republicans have won in spite of, rather than because of his leadership. But Armistead’s camp put out a steady flow of anti-AEA and anti-Obama messaging throughout the election and avoided any significant public gaffes.
His “pet race” of the cycle — Republican doctor Larry Stutts challenging entrenched Democrat Sen. Roger Bedford — was widely viewed as a fool’s errand, but it ended up being the surprise GOP victory of election night and a nice feather in the controversial chairman’s cap.
We can debate over which individual(s) Alabama voters gave a mandate to on Tuesday night, but it’s obvious that the Yellowhammer State — and even the country as a whole — has rejected President Obama’s leadership and is turning to conservatives to right the ship.
Republicans have an extraordinary challenge ahead of them in Washington, D.C., where they only hold a small majority in the Senate and have to deal with a hostile president for at least two more years.
But in Alabama, Republicans hold every office of significance and enormous majorities in the legislature, giving the GOP a rare opportunity to make their state a true test case in conservative governance.
In other words, all the politicians have to do now is give the people they represent exactly what they’re asking for: genuine conservative leadership.
Do you think it’ll happen? Let us know in the comment section below.
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