Turnout is the key in the Senate race




The very interesting and entertaining Republican Primary for our open U.S. Senate seat culminates this Tuesday with the clash between two Titans.  Judge Roy Moore and Big Luther Strange will be in a Titanic battle to fill the seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became U.S. Attorney General.

We will see if Moses with his Ten Commandments and Hebrew children of rural Alabama can slay the Philistine Mountain Brook giant.

The results from the August 15 first primary were predictable.  The turnout was about 18 percent, about what you would expect for a Special Election in mid-August, during 100-degree dog days of summer and one race on the ballot. Moore garnered 39 percent, Strange had 33 percent, and Mo Brooks received a respectable 18 percent.

The early polling and constant polling revealed that Roy Moore had a hard-core 30 percent of the electorate.  It was and still is a solid block of voters that are going to vote for Moore come hell or high water.

Those of us that know politics knew that Moore’s 30 percent would become accentuated and would grow to 40 percent with a low voter turnout.  That is exactly what happened.  The final poll and the only one that counts is the count of those that show up to vote.  Older people vote and Moore’s supporters are more ardent, dedicated, and older.  They showed up and voted.  They will again on Tuesday.  Turnout is as critical as it was on August 15.  Therefore, Luther Strange’s path to victory is narrow.

The Roy Moore popularity and hard-core support is a phenomenon and anomaly in this day and time in politics.  It is very similar to George Wallace’s appeal in his hey day.

Although, unlike Wallace, who was a professional politician and demagogue in the classic Southern stereotypical style, Moore is a true believer.  He has put his money where his mouth is.  He has lost his job, not once but twice, for his stands for the Ten Commandments and against gay marriage.  I doubt George Wallace would have given up his job as governor if a federal judge told him to get out of the school house door in the 1960’s.

However, Moore’s support is deeper than just an evangelical base.  He is a true populist in the mold of a George Wallace or even Huey Long. This job of U.S. Senator actually fits him better in voters’ minds than governor.  He could have and probably should have dug up and recycled an old Wallace slogan used by the fighting little judge from Barbour County in his presidential forays, “Send them a message.”

Moore amazingly carried 60 out of 67 counties on August 15.  It was not just rural counties either.  He won Mobile and Montgomery.  Strange carried Imperial Jefferson and Brook’s carried his home bailiwick of Madison.

Luther Strange had all of the money.  The Washington super PAC’s let it be known early that they were going to load him up and treat him as an incumbent.  They were not just whistling Dixie. In the first primary, they spent over $5 million.  Moore spent $400,000.  Folks that is a 15 to 1 advantage. They have outspent Moore 10 to 1 in the runoff.

With the Washington money also comes the Washington gurus – the best pollsters and media experts in America.  They polled Alabama Republican voters early and late and found Donald Trump’s agenda was very popular in the Heart of Dixie.  They gave Luther Strange the pro-Trump script and he stuck to it perfectly.  They hammered the Trump/Strange message repeatedly.  They have stuck to the script in the runoff.  Luther’s 33 percent vote on August 15 puts him within striking distance of Moore in the runoff.

Luther was bolstered by both the Trump endorsement and also the Alabama Farmers Federation endorsement.  This conservative group’s support is vital in a statewide race.

The former State Attorney General did well as expected among upscale urbane voters in Jefferson and Shelby counties.  He also did surprisingly well in some of the more populous counties of North Alabama, especially Tuscaloosa, Talladega, Cullman, DeKalb, Jackson and Walker counties.  Walker County had a large turnout due to a local issue on the ballot.

The pivotal question is where do Brooks’ voters go Tuesday.  My guess is it is a wash at best.  Most stay home. Therefore, the only route for Big Luther to make up the difference was to go negative and they really did.  We will soon see if it works.  Again, turnout is the key.

How weak has the BCA become?




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.

Like football, the political season kicked off




Labor Day is the traditional kickoff to an election year.  Folks, our quadrennial gubernatorial election year is going to be a doozy.  We are in for one heck of a political year next year.

Besides the Governor’s race, we have an open Lt. Governor’s race, an open Attorney General’s race, an open Treasurer’s race, and an open Agriculture Commissioner’s race.  We have statewide races for Secretary of State and State Auditor.  We have five seats up for election on the State Supreme Court.  One of those will be a hotly contested battle for Chief Justice.  We have two seats up for election on the Public Service Commission.

More importantly, we have local races on the 2018 ballot.  Local races drive the turnout; all politics are local.  All 67 sheriffs run, all probate judges run; there will also be local judicial races and all circuit clerks run.

All seven of our congressional seats will be on the ballot.  Two of those seats will be in play.  Second District Congresswoman Martha Roby is vulnerable and will be challenged and Fifth District Congressman Mo Brooks angered the Washington establishment Republican moneyed power brokers by challenging Luther Strange and he will be in a battle for his political life.

The most important races will be for the 35 state Senate seats and 105 House of Representative seats.  An unprecedented number of Senators and Representatives will not be running for reelection.  Those legislative races will be where most of the special interest money will gravitate.  Money follows money.  The Legislature appropriates state dollars as well as makes state laws.  The Governor proposes and the Legislature disposes.

I have observed Alabama politics for quite awhile and 2018 is set to be the best circus I have seen, and I have seen some good ones.  There may have been better governor’s races, but from top to bottom of the ballot, this may be the very best.

The governor’s race is always the marquee battle royale in Alabama politics.  It will get cranked up immediately after the September 26 Republican Senate primary contest, which Roy Moore will probably win.

Kay Ivey will officially announce soon.  She really began her campaign the day she was sworn in earlier this year.  One of her first acts made her a player in the 2018 gubernatorial contest.  Robert Bentley had initially called for the open Senate race to be in 2018.  However, Ivey had seen polls that revealed that Roy Moore was going to win whatever race he ran for in 2018, whether it was Governor or U.S. Senator.  The vague state Judicial Inquiry Commission made him a martyr and hero when they removed him from his Chief Justice post.  Neither she nor any host of potential horses would have beaten the Ten Commandment’s Judge.  However, she knew that the U.S. Senate seat would allure him and it did.

It was an adroit, brilliant Machiavellian move by Ivey.  She has moved into the governor’s office and looks gubernatorial.   She is in the catbird’s seat in the race for a full four-year term. Her move to have a special election this year rather than a regular election year not only enhanced her odds for election it also cost the state over $10 million.

State House of Representatives, Ways and Means Chairman, Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, has wisely and prudently prefiled a bill to clarify the law and clearly state that the election for a vacated Senate Seat would be held with the next general election.  It will save the cash strapped General Fund a lot of money in the future.

Even though Kay Ivey will be running as the incumbent in the upcoming gubernatorial fray, her entrance has not deterred some major players. Huntsville Mayor, Tommy Battle, will be a player.  He could run on a platform of saying if I can make the rest of Alabama a semblance of Huntsville, I am your man. Agriculture Commissioner, John McMillan, has won two statewide races and is in the race.

Several other viable candidates are not scared of the aging Ivey.  Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington, Birmingham Evangelist Scott Dawson, and State Senator Bill Hightower are already in the GOP contest.

Surprisingly, two Democratic thoroughbreds are poised to run.  Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb are ready to pull the trigger.

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh has moved to the Lt. Governor’s race.  This is a wise and prudent move by the 50-year old state political veteran.  She will be a prohibitive favorite to win that race.  It is purely a name identification contest.  Her positive name ID is very high.