Those who have the gold



By Steve Flowers

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.

   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.

Change on the Potomac for ‘Bama? Doubtful.



By Steve Flowers

There are dramatic differences between our congressional delegation of the 1940’s-1960’s 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.

   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.

Doubtful Jones’ victory will shove Dems forward



By Steve Flowers

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.  

   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.