Incumbency is a potent, powerful, inherent advantage in politics. That fact is playing out to the nines in this year’s Alabama secondary constitutional and down ballot races.
Several of the constitutional office incumbents do not have Republican or Democratic opposition. Of course, having a Democratic opponent is the same as not having an opponent in a statewide race in Alabama. A Democrat cannot win in a statewide contest in the Heart of Dixie.
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth will be elected to a second four-year term without opposition. He will be waiting in the wings to follow Kay Ivey as governor.
Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate will be reelected without opposition. He has done a good job in this important state post.
State Treasurer Young Boozer is running unopposed for another four-year term. He does an excellent job and is uniquely qualified for the Treasurer’s job.
State Supreme Court Justice Kelli Wise is running for reelection unopposed. Kelli is popular and is a good jurist. She is home free for six more years on the state’s high tribunal.
Attorney General Steve Marshall has token opposition in his run for reelection. One Republican and one Democrat qualified against Marshall. However, he will coast to reelection.
There are two seats up for election on the Alabama Public Service Commission. There are three seats on this regulatory panel. The President of the PSC runs in a presidential year. Twinkle Cavanaugh is president and pretty much runs the ship. The two incumbents are Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker. Oden has two unknown Republican opponents. Beeker has two opponents in the GOP primary. One has some name identification, who has run before. Beeker and Oden will probably win reelection.
There are only three hotly contested and interesting secondary statewide races. That is because these three posts are open without an incumbent on the scene.
Popular Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin, the former Probate Judge of Jefferson County, is term limited by an antiquated law that prohibits a judge from running for the court after age 70. There are two qualified candidates seeking to follow Judge Bolin. Birmingham Defense Attorney Greg Cook is facing Anniston Circuit Judge Debra Jones. Cook appears to be the favorite to win. It is apparent that the business community in the state is backing Cook. He has also been endorsed by the Alabama Farmers Federation. The latest campaign finance reports reveal Cook has $552,000 to spend compared to Jones’ $15,000.
The State Auditor position is open. Jim Ziegler has served his eight-year stint. This will be an interesting three-man race for this benign position. Former Mobile State Representative and State Senator Rusty Glover is facing Muscle Shoals State Representative Andrew Sorrell and Jefferson County Pastor Stan Cooke. All three are getting out and working the state.
The race to succeed John Merrill as Secretary of State will be a good race. Merrill is term limited after eight years. State Auditor Jim Ziegler is wanting to move next door in the Capitol and become Secretary of State. Because of his name identification advantage, Ziegler will be favored to win the race. However, he will get a significant challenge from State Representative Wes Allen.
Young Wes Allen has been running for over a year and has a good many significant endorsements including Alfa. He has an impressive resume having served a decade as Probate Judge of Pike County and four years as a State Representative. He also has two home bases. He has lived and served in office in Troy in Southeast Alabama and was born and raised in Tuscaloosa where his father Gerald Allen has been a long time state senator.
Ed Packard, who has run the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office for decades, is also running. He is very well qualified.
The aforementioned current Secretary of State, John Merrill, is not seeking any elective office in 2022, even though he is still relatively young. I have said this before and it holds true today, Merrill is currently the best and most prolific retail politician in the state and one of the best I have seen in Alabama. He has a real grassroots organization in Alabama. He is literally everywhere. Even though he is not on the ballot running this year, he is outworking every candidate mentioned in this column. You have not heard the last of John Merrill.
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.