The Wire

  • WATCH: Blount County football fans join together in prayer before game

    After it was announced earlier this week that Blount County Schools would no longer allow student or volunteer-led prayer over the intercom before games, fans were worried that their prayer would be silenced.

    However, if Friday’s Locust Fork High School game was any indication, prayer in Blount County will continue.

    In a video posted on Twitter, the crowd of students and fans can be seen banding together to use the designated pregame moment of silence to fill the stands with the Lord’s Prayer.

  • Mike Rogers on Kavanaugh: ‘It is Doug Jones’ job to represent the majority will in Alabama when he casts his vote in Washington’

    Friday during an appearance on Birmingham’s Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) weighed in on the current controversy surrounding U.S. Supreme Court associate justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and how his colleagues in the U.S. Senate are handling the confirmation process to date.

    During the segment, Rogers responded to a question about his House colleague Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) calling on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation if Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford did not step forward and announce her intentions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    The Calhoun County Republican agreed with Byrne and suggested Jones “represent the majority will” of Alabamians.

  • Ivey, Byrne showcase ‘old-fashioned’ courthouse rally as GOP poised to take Monroe County

    Excerpt:

    MONROEVILLE – During Alabama’s transition from Democrat to Republican that began in the 1990s and was capped off in 2010 with the GOP finally gaining control of all the branches of government in Montgomery, the local government in Monroe County was one place that was able to resist that trend.

    However, the politics of the state could finally be catching up with one of Alabama’s most historic counties.

    In a setting that had the feeling of being a throwback to the heyday of political rallies staged by the likes former Gov. “Big” Jim Folsom and former Congressman Frank Boykin, the Monroe County Republican Party hosted a rally featuring Gov. Kay Ivey and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) on the lawn of the old Monroe County Courthouse that is thought to be the inspiration for the courthouse in fictitious Maycomb, Alabama, the scene of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

    The goal of the event was to energize GOP voters headed into the midterm elections and flip major local offices in Monroe County, including district judge, sheriff and probate judge, currently held by Democrats to Republican.

3 months ago

Analysis of gubernatorial primaries

Now that the dust has settled from last week’s gubernatorial primaries, let’s analyze the outcome.

Governor Kay Ivey and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox won very impressive victories. Ms. Ivey beat three well financed opponents without a runoff. She trounced them. She garnered 56 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Evangelist Scott Dawson and Mobile State Senator Bill Hightower brought up the rear with 13 percent and 5 percent respectively. All three men worked hard and raised money. It was a daunting task to defeat a sitting governor.

The challenge now goes to youthful, vibrant, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who captured the Democratic nomination with a brilliant and impressive victory.

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Maddox’s win may have been more impressive than Ivey’s. He had to defeat a field of five. He did so, like Ivey, without a runoff. He also received 55 percent of his primary vote. His closest challenger was former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, who got 29 percent. Former Cullman State Representative James Fields ran third in the Democratic primary with 9 percent of the vote.

Polling revealed three months out that Kay Ivey had an insurmountable lead. Remarkably, the same polls had her with the almost identical 30-point lead three weeks out. Her numbers were 45 to Battle’s 12, Dawson 9, and Hightower 4 in mid-February and again as late as mid-May.

The only way to diminish that kind of lead is to go negative. Battle refused to go negative, which negated any chance he had to overtake her. He was the only one of the three with the financial resources to decimate her numbers. He chose to use his campaign largesse to buy name identification. He is probably planning on making another run for governor in 2022. Thus, making this his get acquainted race. Kay will more than likely not be a candidate for reelection in 2022, if indeed she survives the November general election against the Democrat Walt Maddox.

All three dawdled with the scheme to go after Kay’s age, cognizance, and health. The first to use the ploy was Hightower. In a veiled way to draw attention to Kay’s health, he released his medical report. Dawson and Battle followed suit with statements from their doctors saying they were fine. The media took the bait and smelled blood. They caught Kay off guard and off script.

She first gave some ambiguous, befuddled response. Then when her campaign handlers had time to survey the scenario, they realized that all the three men did was to get a written statement from their primary physician that simply stated they were in generally good health. Well, Kay could do that. The issue was diffused and laid to rest.

Presidential candidates cannot get by with broad, benign statements that they are fine. They are made to reveal their medical records and history. This is sometimes pretty private and quite revealing. Every medical problem, procedure, medication, and disease contracted is shown.

There is a reason that Bill Clinton did not release his medical records.

The gentleman award in the GOP Primary goes to Mayor Tommy Battle and Preacher Scott Dawson in the Governor’s race and State Senator Rusty Glover in the Lt. Governor’s race. They were vibrant and positive. Their sincerity and candor were refreshing. They gave hope that good people will enter Alabama politics. However, they also gave renewed credence to the old adage, “nice guys finish last.” This maxim is especially true in politics.

One of the most interesting stories of this year’s gubernatorial election is that when Kay Ivey was a student at Auburn University 52 years ago, she cut her teeth in politics campaigning for Lurleen Wallace for governor. Lurleen won that race going away. In 1966, Governor Lurleen Wallace defeated 10 male opponents without a runoff. She is our only elected female governor in our state’s history. Ironically, if Kay is elected in November, she will be our second elected female governor.

Kay Ivey also made a special friend at Auburn. She and Jimmy Rane met and bonded at the Loveliest Village on the Plain. Rane, better known as the Yellow Man from his commercials, founded Great Southern Wood Company and has forged it into one of America’s great companies. Rane runs his company out of Abbeville and still resides in his native Henry County.

Rane and Ivey have remained fast friends over the years. He has been an integral part of her campaign. He has been her largest personal contributor. In addition, she used Rane’s Great Southern jet to fly around the state on her final day of campaigning.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 months ago

A lot of Alabama candidates headed to ‘Buck’s Pocket’

(AL State Parks)

You voted Tuesday on a crowded ballot.

Historically, in Alabama we have voted more heavily in our Governor’s race year than in a presidential year. That is probably because we were more interested in the local sheriff and probate judge’s races, which run in a gubernatorial year, than who is president. The old adage, “all politics is local,” definitely applies here in Alabama.

We not only have a governor’s race this year, we have all secondary statewide offices with a good many of them open including Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Auditor, and two seats on the Public Service Commission. We have five seats on the State Supreme Court, one being Chief Justice. All 140 seats in the Legislature are up for a four-year term. These 35 state Senate seats and 105 House contests are where most of the special interest PAC money will go. And, yes, we have 67 sheriffs and 68 probate judges as well as a lot of circuit judgeships on the ballot.

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You may think the campaigning is over. However, some of the above races have resulted in a runoff which will be held on July 17. So get ready, we have six more weeks of campaigning before all the horses are settled on for the sprint in November.

We have a lot of folks headed to Buck’s Pocket. Last year after the open Senate seat contest, a young TV reporter for one of the stations I do commentary for asked me about Roy Moore and his loss. I told her ole Moore had gotten on his horse, Sassy, and ridden off into the sunset to Buck’s Pocket, which by the way wasn’t a long ride from his home in Gallant in Etowah County. She looked at me with a puzzled look. Probably a lot of you are also wondering what I’m talking about when I refer to Buck’s Pocket.

For decades, losing political candidates in Alabama have been exiled to Buck’s Pocket. It is uncertain when or how the colloquialism began, but political insiders have used this terminology for at least 60 years. Alabama author, Winston Groom, wrote a colorful allegorical novel about Alabama politics and he referred to a defeated gubernatorial candidate having to go to Buck’s Pocket. Most observers credit Big Jim Folsom with creating the term. He would refer to the pilgrimage and ultimate arrival of his opponents to the political purgatory reserved for losing gubernatorial candidates.

This brings me to another contention surrounding Buck’s Pocket. Many argue that Buck’s Pocket is reserved for losing candidates in the governor’s race. Others say Buck’s Pocket is the proverbial graveyard for all losing candidates in Alabama.

One thing that all insiders agree on is that once you are sent to Buck’s pocket you eat poke salad for every meal. Groom also suggested that you were relegated to this mythical rural resting place forever. However, history has proven that a good many defeated Alabama politicians have risen from the grave and left Buck’s Pocket to live another day. Roy Moore may be a good example. He has risen from the grave before. He is only 70 and he may grow weary of eating poke salad.

Most folks don’t know that there really is a Buck’s Pocket. Big Jim would campaign extensively in rural North Alabama often one on one on county roads. One day while stumping in the remote Sand Mountain area of DeKalb County he  wound up in an area referred to as Buck’s Pocket. It was a beautiful and pristine area, but it was sure enough back in the woods. Big Jim who loved the country and loved country folks was said to say that, “I love the country but I sure wouldn’t want to be sent to Buck’s Pocket to live.”

Buck’s pocket is now not a mythical place. If you are traveling up the interstate past Gadsden, on the way to Chattanooga, you will see it. There is a Buck’s Pocket State Park in DeKalb County, thanks to Big Jim.

So the next time you hear an old timer refer to a defeated candidate as going to Buck’s Pocket, you will know what they are talking about.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 months ago

Why Shelby is one of Alabama’s greatest senators ever

(Wikicommons)

In my book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Alabama Political Stories,” I suggest that based on seniority, tenure, power and prestige that Alabama’s greatest senators have been Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and Richard Shelby.

Folks, Richard Shelby has probably forged to the front of that triumvirate with his elevation to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee in April.

The Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee makes the ultimate decision about how every federal United States dollar is spent. Alabama has never had a U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman in our 200-year history.

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Shelby’s prowess at bringing home the bacon is legendary. You do not have to look very far to see the effects of Shelby’s power over his past 31 years as our U.S. Senator. There is an entire section of the University of Alabama where he placed buildings that are an integral part of the University’s academic success. All paid for with federal dollars.

The state of the art biomedical research facility at UAB, all paid for with federal dollars, is there along with millions more in research grants because of Richard Shelby Huntsville and the Redstone Arsenal have been the benefactors of so much largesse from Shelby’s direct influence that it is not possible in the space of this column to enumerate the
buildings and federal dollars that our crown jewel city has received over the years.

Huntsville/Madison County and the entire Tennessee Valley are poised to become the envy of the nation in economic growth over the next decade. There should be three gigantic monuments erected in Huntsville and put side by side of Werner Von Braun, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

If truth were known, one of the reasons the Mazda/Toyota plant, with over 5000 high paying jobs, chose Huntsville was because of Richard Shelby.

Along with becoming Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he also took over the reins of the Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee.

I am here to tell you that is big news for Alabama. There is no state in America that is more reliant on federal dollars for defense installations, defense research and defense related employees than the good old Heart of Dixie.

What facilities do you think will be protected and which bases will be guarded? The Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Maxwell/Gunter in Montgomery and Ft. Rucker in the Wiregrass will be first in line when it comes to federal defense spending. More importantly, those major economic engines of our state just received a gigantic umbrella protection policy from any military defense cutbacks.

Senator Shelby has chaired several extremely important U.S. Senate committees over his three decades as our senator, including Intelligence, Banking, and Rules. However, Appropriations is the crème-de la crème of committees. Why? Because it controls the gold. “Those who have the gold make the rules.”

Senator Shelby has brought home a lot of bacon to our state over the years, more than any U.S. Senator in Alabama History. However, you ain’t seen nothing yet. They have just given our senior U.S. Senator the key to the vault to the U.S. Treasury and he knows how to use it.

And, guess what? He is just in his second year of his sixth six-year term. He is in the best health of any 84-year-old I have ever seen. He has the soundness of mind and the physical stamina of a 60-year-old and he works out daily.

The governor’s race is getting down to the proverbial lick log. It looks as though Kay Ivey is in the catbird’s seat to win a full term of her own. There is no reason to fret over her perceived aging, looks can be deceiving. Besides when you have Richard Shelby as a senior U.S. Senator we really do not even need a governor.

Twinkle Cavanaugh is poised to win the Lt. Governor’s race. When the dust settles in November my prediction is that we will have a female governor and a female Lt. Governor, but more importantly we will have Richard Shelby as our senior U.S. Senator for at least four more years.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 months ago

Less than two weeks to primary – governor’s race

(W.Miller/Pixabay)

As we get down to the lick log in the 2018 June Primary, there are few if any surprises in any of the major state races. Polling indicates that all of the contests are about where they were three or four months ago when the races began.

There is a tremendous amount of apathy and indifference as we head into the final days. This lack of enthusiasm has also affected fundraising. Most of the high-profile races have not attracted the amount of dollars as in the past.

Kay Ivey is sitting on a sizeable lead in the GOP gubernatorial primary. She took a slight dip in the polls when she ducked out of debates. However, it is not as pronounced as it would have been if she had appeared. Her campaign has been managed brilliantly.

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Coincidentally, at the same time that her staff adroitly kept her out of the debates, her polling picked up that preserving the confederate monuments was an issue with conservative Republican primary voters. Kay’s media folks responded with an ad that could have come out of the George Wallace playbook. They had her telling folks that northern liberals and scalawags were not going to tell us what we are going to do with our monuments. Her resolve made folks wonder if she was actually there when the monuments were erected.

Last week, with only three weeks until the primary, lesbian lawmaker and LGBTQ activist Patricia Todd suggested in social media posts that Kay was gay. Ms. Ivey adamantly denied the tweet. She has adroitly deflected any and all inquiries into her private life.

The bottom line is that polls indicated she had a 30-point lead three months ago, and that lead is about the same now with less than two weeks to go to the Primary. The question is do her challengers push her into a runoff. Speculation is that she could win without a runoff the same way that her mentor, Lurleen Wallace, did in 1966.

The surprise in the GOP race could be Birmingham evangelist, Scott Dawson. He has run a very energetic campaign. Evangelical, rural, Roy Moore voters may be coalescing around the young minister. His strength might be underestimated by polling data.

This white evangelical vote is ironically similar to the African American vote in the state. It is quiet and beats to a different drummer. The message resonates through word-of-mouth between church pews rather than through the media and social media. Although, it eventually gravitates to being somewhat in lock-step with a predictably higher than average turnout.

Most observers expect Huntsville mayor, Tommy Battle, to make a late run at Ivey. He has money in the bank. He will also come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with good Friends and Neighbors support. He should get enough votes to run second and force Ivey into a runoff.

However, there will still be a 15-to-20 point spread in favor of Ivey when the votes are counted on June 5. Kay will have to put on her campaign bonnet for another six weeks. She will still not debate.

The Democratic Primary for governor has two thoroughbreds battling it out for the opportunity to face the GOP candidate, probably Ivey. Polling in this race between former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is inconclusive.

Most of the folks who vote in the Democratic Primary on June 5 will be African American.

Although this vote is not monolithic, the pendulum swings toward one candidate.

The African American leadership in the party is actively supporting Walt Maddox. He has also captured a good number of young white millennials and college students. My guess is that Maddox is the winner in the Democratic Primary.

Troy King will probably lead the balloting in the Attorney General contest. Alice Martin and Steve Marshall are battling for a place in the runoff with King.

Twinkle Cavanaugh is poised to get a good vote in the Lt. Governor’s race. If she has a runoff, it will probably be Will Ainsworth from Sand Mountain, who has had a significant TV buy.

State Senator Gerald Dial has surged in the Agriculture Commissioner race, primarily due to a brilliant and upbeat television ad. It is the best TV spot of the year. He is also benefiting immensely from grassroots support from rural volunteer firefighters throughout the state.

Voter ambivalence favors incumbents and those who have voter name identification. Therefore, my prognostication is that when all of the votes are counted in November, we will have a female Republican Governor, Kay Ivey, and a female Republican Lt. Governor, Twinkle Cavanaugh.

We will see.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the legislature. Steve may be reached at this link.

5 months ago

Low voter turnout expected for primary

(Wikicommons)

We are less than four weeks away from our June 5th primary. Those of us who follow Alabama politics have pointed to this year as being a very entertaining and interesting gubernatorial year.

However, last year’s resignation by former Governor, Robert Bentley and the ascension of Kay Ivey from Lt. Governor to the Governor’s office has put a damper on the excitement we anticipated in the governor’s race.

Kay took over the reins of state government and her appearance as a seasoned veteran of state politics seems to resonate with voters. Polling indicates that the governor’s race is hers to lose.

Therefore, the less she does may be the best course. Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep. A slip and fall could derail her train.

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Her perch reminds me of a story surrounding the last truly colorful southern governor, Edwin Edwards of Louisiana. Ole Edwin had a wide lead like Kay’s in the polls a few weeks prior to his race for reelection as governor of the Pelican state. The press asked him about two weeks out about his significant lead in the polls. Edwin’s reply was, “Yeah, the only way that ole Edwin
can lose this race is to get caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.”

Tommy Battle, the popular Mayor of Huntsville is poised to make a formidable run at Kay in the closing weeks. He has some money in the bank and will come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with a good friends and neighbors vote. The Evangelical Roy Moore voters appear to be coalescing around Evangelist Scott Dawson.

My guess is that Walt Maddox, the young 45-year old Mayor of Tuscaloosa is benefitting from a grass roots support among African American voters in the Democratic primary. If indeed this is the case, Maddox will be favored to capture the Democratic nomination.
Will Barfoot has emerged as the frontrunner in the closely watched open Montgomery/River Region Republican seat. Incumbent State Senator Paul Bussman is in a close contest with Cullman City Council President Garlan Grudger. Polling indicates that this one may be too close to call. Bussman’s departure from the GOP Senate Caucus has given his constituents the
perception that he may be rendered ineffective. This district is politically savvy.

Veteran educator, Wayne Reynolds, may be poised to win the State Board of Education District 8 seat in the Huntsville-Tennessee Valley area being vacated by Mary Scott Hunter. Mary Scott and Sam Givhan are battling for an open state Senate seat in Huntsville. This race is one of the best Senate races in the state. Both Givhan and Hunter are heirs to great Alabama legacies.

Givhan’s grandfather was legendary Black Belt State Senator Walter Givhan. Ms. Hunter’s daddy, Scott Hunter, is one of Bear Bryant’s famous quarterbacks.

Speaking of legends, Alabama political icon, Milton McGregor, was laid to rest a few weeks ago. He would have been 79 today. Montgomery’s Frazer Memorial Methodist Church was overflowing. A good many of the state’s past and present political powers were there, including several past governors and a sitting U.S. Senator.

One of the state’s most famous and personable preachers, John Ed Mathison, presented a masterful sermon. He is a great man. He and his wife were best friends with Milton and Pat.

It was actually a joyous political homecoming event. As folks were visiting and reminiscing, one of Alabama’s most prominent pulmonary physicians, Dr. David Thrasher, who has been a doctor to many famous Alabamians and was one of Milton’s pallbearers was visiting with me and said, “Steve, I was at Governor Wallace’s funeral when Franklin Graham spoke and it
doesn’t compare to this.” Then he quipped, “Steve, I got a call from Billy Graham. He said that he had met a nice guy at breakfast by the name of Milton McGregor. Milton said to tell John Ed to remind the people down here that if they did good and believed in Jesus that they could be a winner too and join him.” That’s what John Ed said.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

5 months ago

Why the Alabama Legislature holds the power — and a breakdown of interesting open seats

(AL Legislature)

Our antiquated 1901 Constitution was designed to give inordinate power to the Legislature. During the Wallace years, the King of Alabama politics, George Wallace, usurped this power and controlled the Legislature from the Executive Branch of Government. Over the last couple of decades the Legislature has wrestled this power back and pretty much excluded the Governor from their bailiwick. Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley were ostracized and pretty much ignored. Their proposed budgets were instantaneously tossed into the nearest trashcan.

Legislative power is derived from controlling the state’s purse strings. Thus the old adage, “Those who have the gold set the rules.” The Legislature has gotten like Congress in that incumbents are difficult to defeat. Therefore, the interest will be on the open Senate and House seats. Most of the Montgomery Special Interest money will be focused on these Legislative races.

Speaking of Montgomery, two open and most interesting Senate seats in the state will be in the Montgomery/River Region. One is currently in progress. Montgomery City Councilman, David Burkette, Representative John Knight and Councilman Fred Bell are pursuing the Democratic seat vacated by Senator Quinton Ross when he left to become President of Alabama State University. Burkette has already bested Knight and Bell in a Special Election last month. A rebound race is set for June 5.

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The Republican Senate seat in the River Region held by Senator Dick Brewbaker is up for grabs. This seat was expected to attract numerous well-known aspirants. However, when the dust settled at the qualifying deadline two relatively unknown candidates were the only ones to qualify. Will Barfoot and Ronda Walker are pitted against each other in a race that is considered a tossup.

The Etowah County/Gadsden area was considered one of the most Democratic areas of the state for generations. However, in recent years it has become one of the most Republican. State Representative, Mack Butler, should be favored as a Republican. Although, polling indicates that veteran Democratic Representative, Craig Ford, could make this a competitive race in the Fall. He is running as an Independent.  

Veteran State Senator Harri Ann Smith has represented the Wiregrass/Dothan area admirably for over two decades. She has been elected several times as an Independent. However, she has decided not to seek reelection. Her exit leaves State Representative Donnie Chesteen in the catbird seat to capture the seat.

Republican State Senator Paul Bussman, who represents Cullman and northwest Alabama, is a maverick and very independent. This independence makes him powerful. He will be reelected easily.

State Representative David Sessions is predicted to win the seat of Senator Bill Hightower who is running for Governor.

Most of the state Senate’s most powerful members are unopposed or have token opposition. Included in this list of incumbent State Senators are veteran Senate leader and Rules Chairman, Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Senate President, Del Marsh, R-Calhoun, Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, veteran Senator Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, as well as Senate leaders Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Clay Scofield, R-Marshall, Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, Tom Whatley, R-Lee, and Shay Shelnutt, R-Gardendale. The Senate leadership will remain intact, as will the House leadership.

Almost all of the House leaders are unopposed or have token opposition. This prominent list includes: Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison, Budget Chairmen, Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, Speaker Pro-tem, Victor Gaston, R- Mobile, Rules Chairman, Mike Jones, R-Covington.

In addition, there are numerous Veteran lawmakers, who will be reelected, including Lynn Greer, Mike Ball, Jim Carnes, Howard Sanderford, Kerry Rich, and Jimmy Martin; as well as rising leaders: Nathaniel Ledbetter, Kyle South, Connie Rowe, Tim Wadsworth, April Weaver, Paul Lee, Terri Collins, Danny Garrett, Dickie Drake, Chris Pringle, Randall Shedd, Allen Farley, Becky Nordgren, Mike Holmes, David Standridge, Dimitri Polizos, Reed Ingram and Chris Sells.

Even though there are 22 open House seats and 10 open Senate Seats, the leadership of both Chambers will remain the same.

There are some competitive House seats that will be interesting. In the Pike/Dale County Seat 89, Pike Probate Judge Wes Allen is pitted against Troy City Council President Marcus Paramore. Tracy Estes is favored to replace retiring Mike Millican in Marion County. Alfa is going all out for Estes. David Wheeler is expected to capture the open House seat in Vestavia.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

6 months ago

What do you know about Alabama’s congressional delegates?

(Wikicommons)

There are dramatic differences between our congressional delegation of the 1940s-1960s and our group on the Potomac today. Obviously, their partisan badges have changed, as have Alabamians. There is also a tremendous difference in power and seniority of that era versus today’s group. That bygone era of Alabama congressmen were very progressive New Deal Democrats; whereas, our delegation today is one of the most conservative in America.

Their paths to Congress were also very different. It was as though the earlier folks had been born to be in Congress. They all went to the University of Alabama for college and law school, went off to fight in the World War, came back to their hometown to practice law for a short while before going off to Congress for a 20-30 year tenure of “Going Along to Get Along.”

Today’s delegation seems to have gotten there by accident. Of the seven, two went to Duke, one to Harvard, one to New York University, one to Birmingham Southern, one to Jacksonville State, and one to the University of Alabama. Six of the seven have law degrees, which is the only similarity to the bygone era.

As we look toward next year’s election, let’s take a look at our current congressional delegates since all are on the ballot this year. Congressmen run every two years but seldom lose. Once you get to Washington the power of incumbency is tremendous. All of the Washington special interest money gravitates to incumbents.

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First district congressman, Bradley Bryne, is a Republican who was born and raised in Baldwin County in the heart of the traditional first district. This district is primarily a Baldwin and Mobile seat. Historically it has had great congressmen. Frank Boykin, Jack Edwards, Sonny Callahan, and Jo Bonner have more than aptly represented them over the past 80 years.

Byrne is a lawyer by profession. He graduated from Duke undergraduate and University of Alabama Law School. He served five years in the Alabama State Senate before becoming chancellor of the State Community College System where he served several years. He ran for governor in 2010 and led the first primary, but lost to Robert Bentley in the runoff. He won a Special Election to Congress in December of 2013. He has taken to Congress like a duck to water. He is 62 and serves on the Armed Services and Rules Committees. He will win reelection to a third term this year.

Second District Congresswoman, Martha Roby, is the only seat in play this year. She is vulnerable. Roby made a terrible mistake by saying that she was not going to vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, last year. The backlash was dramatic.

She is being challenged by three significant GOP opponents. Former Montgomery Mayor and Congressman, Bobby Bright, will be tough. State Representative, Barry Moore, of Enterprise chose to challenge Roby rather than seek reelection to the Legislature. He has been running against Roby for over a year. Rich Hobson is Roy Moore’s chief ally. He will be the heir apparent to Judge Moore’s Wiregrass organization. Bright, Moore and Hobson were all born and raised in the Wiregrass.

Third district congressman, Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, is building some seniority and will be a safe bet for reelection. At the end of this term, he will have 16-years seniority. He serves on the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees where he is building power.

The crown jewel of our congressional delegation is Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville. Aderholt got to Congress at 30 years old and has 22 years of seniority. He is only 52 and is a ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. He will be reelected to a 12th term next year.

Congressman Mo Brooks ran a very good race for the U.S. Senate last year. He will probably run again in 2020 against Democrat Doug Jones. He will be reelected to his Congressional seat this year, and get ready for another Senate run.

Sixth district Birmingham Congressman, Gary Palmer, will win reelection to his suburban Jefferson/Shelby Republican seat. He is unopposed for a third term.

Our only Democratic Congressperson is a Harvard educated lady. Terri Sewell is a lawyer, who had a successful law practice in Birmingham before being elected to Congress from the Seventh District eight years ago. The Selma native is on a fast track in Washington. She will go back for another two-year term.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reaches at www.steveflowers.us.

6 months ago

Inside the statehouse

(W.Miller/YHN)

Republicans took control of federal offices and presidential races in 1964 in Alabama. It was referred to as the Goldwater Landslide. The Baxley-Graddick fiasco in 1986 was the game changer for governor. In the last 32 years there have been eight governor’s races. Republicans have won all of them, with one exception. Don Siegelman was an interloper in 1998.

During that same period, Alabamians have elected all Republicans to every secondary, statewide office. There are six secondary constitutional offices. All six are held by Republicans. There are nine justices on the State Supreme Court. There are also 10 judges on the Civil and Criminal Courts of Appeals. These 19 judges are all Republicans. If you add the three seats on the PSC to this list and include the Governor, that is 29 state offices. All 29 are held by Republicans.

In addition, we have seven seats in Congress. Six-out- of-seven of our Congressional members are Republicans. Folks, that makes us a pretty Republican state.

However, inexplicably it was only eight years ago in 2010 that our state legislature changed from Democratic controlled to majority Republican. When it changed it really changed drastically. The final coup de gras was probably caused by the National Democrats electing Barack Obama president.

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As I sat on television analyzing the dramatic results in 2010, it became obvious to me that the seismic avalanche of voting Republican for legislative seats was erupting in North Alabama and especially the Tennessee Valley. This area of the state had continued to elect Democrats to state legislative seats. It was the last bastion of white Democratic voters. This allegiance and loyalty was dating back to FDR and the New Deal. However, the election of Obama changed all that
loyalty that these voters and their grandparents had to their longstanding Democratic affinity for local and legislative candidates.

The Republican legislative leadership led by former Speaker Mike Hubbard, claimed credit for this Republican tidal wave engulfing and changing the Legislature. They did field good candidates; however, it was Barack Obama that put the final nail in the Democratic coffin in Alabama. Race and religion have always driven the vote in the Heart of Dixie.

The southern two-thirds of the state had incrementally begun voting for GOP legislative candidates, especially in suburban districts. However, the northern tier of the state voted Republican with a vengeance, and it looks like they are not turning back.

Regardless of the reason our legislature is not only majority Republican, it is super majority Republican. That means that over two-thirds of the members of the State Senate and State House are Republican.

The Democrats are buoyed by Doug Jones historic victory in a Special U.S. Senate election in December. They have enthusiastically fielded a large slate of candidates for the Legislature.

Democrats believe that Jones’ win in suburban areas, especially Jefferson and Mobile, can be duplicated this year.

That is doubtful. The Jones victory was an anomaly and an isolated dislike for Roy Moore. The Republicans will return with their majorities and more than likely their lock on a super majority.

Incumbency is a powerful advantage and most of the incumbents are Republicans.

A good many of the State Senate’s most powerful members are unopposed for reelection.

Included in this list of incumbent State Senators who have been reelected by acclamation are veteran Senate Leader and Rules Chairman, Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, respected veteran Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Senator Clay Scofield, R-Marshall, Senator Shay Shelnutt, R-Gardendale, Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga.

Republican Senate leaders, Del Marsh, R-Calhoun, Jim McClendon, R-St. Clair, Steve Livingston, R- Scottsboro, only have taken opposition in the Republican primary and no Democratic opponent.

Republican Senators, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster and Tom Whatley, R-Lee, only have token Democratic opponents in very Republican districts.

On the Democratic side, veteran State Senators, Rodger Smitherman, Priscilla Dunn, Bobby Singleton, and Billy Beasley are running unopposed. Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, the longest serving member of the Alabama Senate decided to not seek a 10th term. Senator Sanders has become an icon in Alabama political history. He will be replaced by another Democrat, probably his daughter.

Longtime Democratic House members Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, and Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, are retiring and Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, and Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, are leaving the House to run for the Senate. They are the last four white male Democrats in the House of Representatives. That leaves one white Democrat in the House, Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, and there will be one white Democrat in the Senate, Billy Beasley, D-Clayton. These two white Democrats will be dinosaurs in the legislature.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Most Important Races are for Senate, House

Steve Flowers

As I mentioned last week, we will have a plethora of political contests to follow next year, and the field is beginning to formulate

The governor’s race is always the marquee event. However, the most important races will be for the 35 State Senate and 105 House of Representatives seats. These legislative races will be where most of the special interest money will gravitate.

There will be an unprecedented number of state senators not running for reelection. However, the nucleus and bulk of the State Senate leadership is planning to return. Veteran leaders Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Del Marsh, R-Anniston, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, Arthur Orr, R- Decatur, Cam Ward, R-Shelby, and Jim McClendon, R-St. Clair, will all run for reelection. Along with rising stars, Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, Clay Schofield, R-Marshall, Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, Shay Shelnut, R-Trussville, Slade Blackwell, R-Jefferson, as well as Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa and Tom Whatley, R-Auburn.

This cadre of Republican leadership returning portends that the State Senate will be where the power will be concentrated when the next quadrennium begins in Montgomery.

The same scenario will occur in the House. There will also be a good deal of turnover in the lower chamber. However, the nucleus of leadership will return and will more than likely all stay in their leadership positions. The top five leaders will remain intact. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, as Speaker, Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, as ProTem, Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, will continue as Chairman of the Education Ways and Means Committee and Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, will be Chairman of Ways and Means General Fund Committee. Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, will steer the Rules Committee.

One center of special interest power that will diminish significantly is the once vaunted Business Council of Alabama unless they replace Bill Canary, their much-beleaguered CEO. It has been rumored for over a year that he will be replaced.

In the past few months, the omnipotent power in Alabama politics, Alabama Power, made it perfectly clear that either Canary goes or the Company would have to reconsider its participation. The company’s last minute withdrawal from the annual BCA Governmental Affairs Conference was a clear message. But just to make sure the message was received, Alabama Power President, Mark Crosswhite, met with Canary in a gentlemanly fashion. He summoned Canary to the company’s downtown Birmingham headquarters and politely explained to the New Yorker that BCA’s failures and lack of leadership are a major concern to the company. Crosswhite then met with some key members of BCA’s board to make Alabama Power’s position clear.

Canary is telling his BCA bosses that the meeting with Crosswhite was a great success and everything was just a misunderstanding. But the only one who misunderstands, it seems, is Canary. Alabama Power was the integral factor in organizing the Business Council several decades ago. Their financial contributions to the BCA comprise over 25 percent of the group’s income.

In addition to the Power Company’s disenchantment with Canary, our senior Senator, Richard Shelby, has made it clear to BCA members that Canary is so out of favor with him that he is no longer welcome in his office and furthermore should not bother to call his office for an appointment.

Folks, what that means is that the BCA with Billy Canary on board has absolutely no power in Washington. All seven of our Congressmen and whoever our new senator is pales in power to Shelby. Shelby is more powerful that all eight put together, and believe me none of them want to offend him. He not only trumps them, he trumps Trump.

Canary is not only a pariah in Washington, he is a joke in Montgomery. Most folks thought he would be indicted with Mike Hubbard. His credibility has continued to diminish since that time. His cavalier, sinister, overbearing, and boorish New York behavior has made him a caricature.

In private conversations with most Republican and Democratic legislators, they will snicker and say if the BCA board is stupid enough to allow Canary to stay we will take their money during the 2018 election cycle and then ignore him for four years just like Shelby.

The BCA with Canary is a dead-man walking. They are a powerless joke. If a business were smart, they would give their contributions directly to the candidates, rather than through a defunct organization led by a has been. You can bet your bottom dollar that is what ALFA and the Alabama Power Company will be doing.

Kay Ivey has made it official that she is a candidate for governor. She enters the race as the clear favorite.

See you next week.


About the Author: Steve Flowers was born and raised in Troy, Alabama. He became a Page in the Alabama Legislature at age 12 and worked at the State Capitol throughout his high school years. Steve went to the University of Alabama where he graduated from the Capstone in 1974 with a degree in Political Science and History.

Steve entered politics and was elected State Representative from Pike County. He was overwhelmingly reelected four times. He left undefeated and uncontested, choosing not to seek reelection in 1998.

After leaving the Legislature, in 2002, Steve began writing a weekly column on Alabama politics. Overnight it became the leading and most widely read column on Alabama politics in the state.

Today, Steve Flowers is Alabama’s most watched and read political columnist and commentator. His weekly column on Alabama politics appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers with a circulation approaching 450,000.

As Alabama’s premier columnist and commentator, Steve has analyzed Alabama politics for national television audiences on CBS, PBS, ABC and the British Broadcasting Network.
Steve has been an up close participant and observer of the Alabama political scene for more than 50 years and is generally considered the ultimate authority on Alabama politics and Alabama political history.

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