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Steve Flowers: Midyear political observations

Now that we are midway through the year, allow me to share some thoughts on Alabama political events. There have been some significant elections already this year in the Heart of Dixie as we await a titanic presidential election in the fall.

The race for the newly drawn Second Congressional district has been the major political attraction of the year. The primaries attracted a plethora of candidates on both political spectrums. There were 11 Democrats and 8 Republicans running for their party’s nomination. Most, if not all, of the Democratic aspirants lived outside the district. Half of them represented Democratic legislative districts hundreds of miles from the new bailiwick. It was actually comical.

The winner of the Democratic nomination has spent his entire adult life in Washington. Shomari Figures at only 38, came home to Mobile with a ton of Washington liberal and crypto currency money, and trounced the field, impressively. He parlayed his Mobile roots and his parent’s immense name identification in the Port City. He also beat Joe Reed’s vaunted ADC machine in Montgomery. In the first primary, he beat Reed’s man, Napoleon Bracey, 40 to 15 in Joe’s backyard.

The biggest surprise and most impressive performance was turned in by young Caroleene Dobson, who won the GOP nomination for the new district. She not only won, she trounced veteran Montgomery State Legislator Dick Brewbaker, who had led her in the first primary. She ran a brilliant campaign spearheaded by the sensational political guru, Paul Shashy, who also masterminded both Sens. Tommy Tuberville’s and Katie Britt’s campaigns.

Caroleene is a 37-year-old lawyer, mother, and wife. She crisscrossed the district from one end to the other. She is very poised and exudes class and integrity. She is originally from Monroe County, which is in the center of the new district, geographically.  Her family has deep roots in the cattle industry. Caroleene Dobson would make a good congresswoman.

Marshall County has become the new center of Alabama politics. It is the new Barbour County of state political lore. This economically affluent enclave in the heart of Sand Mountain boasts breathtaking scenic views and pristine lakes. It is also home to our current Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Those of us who follow Alabama politics saw two juggernaut rising stars emerging in Marshall County. Wes Kitchens and Brock Colvin came to Montgomery at extremely young ages, both under 30 from Marshall County. Both were and still are considered rising stars.

When Clay Scofield, the popular state senator and Republican Majority Leader from Marshall County, left his senate seat this year to join the Business Council of Alabama, it left a vacancy, which created an open senate seat special election.

Guess who ran? The two new superstars Wes Kitchens and Brock Colvin collided. Kitchens bested Colvin 55 to 45. Wes Kitchens is now a 35-year-old state senator from Marshall County.

Jeana Ross, a very well-respected educator won the special election for Wes Kitchens’ old House seat. She defeated five other Republicans to capture this very Republican Seat.

Speaking of women winning open special election seats this year, Marilyn Lands, a Democrat, won an open seat in Huntsville. This House seat is considered one of the few purple swing seats in the state. She ran a campaign espousing women’s reproductive rights. She won 62 to 38. This should send a message to the Republican Party nationwide. The reversal of Roe v. Wade has been devasting for Republicans in the last three elections. 

The passage of the Working for Alabama package of bills during the regular legislative session will be a gamechanger for job creation in Alabama. The behind-the-scenes masterminds of this significant project were Alabama Power CEO Jeff Peoples and Alabama Community College Chancellor Jimmy Baker. This collaborative effort will pay dividends for decades to come in our state. Chancellor Baker has transformed our community/technical college system into the incubator and matriculation for job creation in Alabama.

Our retired, iconic, United States Sen. Richard Shelby turned 90 last month. A couple of decades ago when he was in his late 60s or early 70s, several of us would privately ask him if he was contemplating retirement. He quickly said, “No, I will probably stay to my mid-80s, I’ve got long genes.”

He was not lying. I have never seen a 90-year-old as sharp or look as good as Shelby does today. He is enjoying his retirement in his home in Tuscaloosa with his beloved wife, Dr. Annette Shelby. The have a little five-pound dog, which he has named Tallulah, probably after the famous Alabama actress Tallulah Bankhead.

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 [email protected].

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