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Flowers: Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day. It is an ironic juxtaposition that the State of the Union address by the president and Groundhog Day occur on the same day. One involves a meaningless ritual in which a doddering octogenarian who is as outdated as the State of the Union event stumbles through some scripted predictions. The other involves an outdated mythical tradition celebrating a prediction by a rodent. Both prognostications by Biden and the Groundhog are insignificant and irrelevant.

Our marquee race for 2022 in the state of Alabama is the race to replace our retiring U.S. Senator, Richard Shelby. Before I delve into the rivalry to follow Shelby and sit in his seat, allow me to say that his junior counterpart in our current Senate tandem, Coach Tommy Tuberville, is doing a good job after his first year as our junior U. S. Senator. There was some speculation regarding his effectiveness given his lack of governmental experience. 

Tuberville has put together an excellent staff.  He did a good day’s work when he secured Stephen Boyd as his Chief of Staff. Tuberville and his staff are doing an excellent job with constituent service, which is an integral part of a senator’s job when you want to be an effective senator for your state.  

Tuberville’s staff is especially interested in helping veterans in Alabama.  He has a full-time staff member, who is assigned to helping Alabama veterans get their deserved benefits for their service to our country.  You could tell Tuberville was driven to make sure that military veterans and current servicemen and women were taken care of when he was running. His father was a career military man and Tuberville revered him. Coach Tuberville has not sought the spotlight and tried to become a Fox News darling and be a right-wing ideologue. 

He has taken on a workhorse mentality and has voted consistently conservative and been a team player within the GOP Senate caucus.  Tuberville realizes that he will never be a Richard Shelby because he got there later in life after his career as a college football coach.  He has learned that seniority counts.  Arriving in the U. S. Senate at age 66 is not conducive to being a senate giant.  Seniority is king in Washington. Tuberville also understands the importance that defense spending and agriculture are to Alabama. He is applying himself to protecting these two vital concerns as any senator from Alabama should strive to accomplish.

It is all about seniority in the U.S. Senate. It will be at least 15 years before anybody we elect to this senate seat has any real power to bring home the bacon. Katie Britt is 40 and Mo Brooks is 68. You can do the math as to which one has the potential to be effective for Alabama and build seniority and power. Katie Britt not only has the youthfulness to gain seniority, but she also possesses the ability, acumen and more importantly, she wants to be an effective senator for Alabama and protect our military bases and jobs.

Mo Brooks has shown over his 40-year political career and more recently his 10-year congressional tenure that he does not want to be effective for Alabama. He is more interested in bomb throwing than doing anything for his district or Alabama. Brooks could not be effective, even if he wanted to. He will be 69 and the Republican leadership would dismiss him as a rightwing gadfly and an old one at that.

The wildcard in the Senate race is one Mike Durant. He came out of the blue three months ago and has bombarded the airwaves with a constant saturation of television ads. He has run a total media campaign with no one-on-one campaigning. Few people have ever met him. He is like a stealth candidate, who only appears on your television as a POW war hero. Durant, who hails from New Hampshire, is primarily self-funding his campaign. However, he is also being financed by a PAC headed by a wealthy donor Harriman, who wants to elect five independent non-partisan senators in the mold of Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, which would put Durant in a small group of liberal Democrats and Republicans. Durant may also be torpedoed by a family situation that has come to light recently.

The U.S. Senate race is fluid at this time with most people undecided on their choice. It will be interesting to watch.

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.

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