We will probably lose another seat

 

By Steve Flowers

The legendary Speaker of the U.S. House, Sam Rayburn, coined a famous phrase he used often and imparted to young congressmen when they would arrive on Capitol Hill full of vim and vigor. He would sit down with them and invite them to have a bourbon and branch water with him. The old gentleman, who had spent nearly half a century in the Congress, after hearing their ambitions of how they were going to change the world, would look them in the eye and say, “You know here in Congress there are 435 prima donnas and they all can’t be lead horses.” Then the Speaker in his Texas drawl would say, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

Rayburn ruled as Speaker during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt post-Depression and World War II era. The Democrats dominated Congress. Mr. Sam could count on the big city Congressmen from Tammany Hall in New York and the Chicago machine politicians following the Democratic leadership because they had gotten there by going along with the Democratic bosses who controlled the wards that made up their urban districts. But the country was still rural at that time and Mr. Sam would have to invite a backsliding rural member to his Board of Education meeting in a private den in the basement of the Capitol and occasionally explain his adage again to them that in order to get along you have to go along.

One of Mr. Sam Rayburn’s young pupils was a freshly minted congressman from Alabama’s Tennessee Valley. Bob Jones from Scottsboro was elected to Congress in 1946 when John Sparkman ascended to the U.S. Senate.

Speaker Rayburn saw a lot of promise in freshman congressman Jones. The ole Texan invited Jones to visit his Board of Education meeting early in his first year. He calmly advised Jones to sit on the right side of the House chamber in what Mr. Sam called his pews. He admonished the young congressman to sit quietly for at least four years and not say a word or make a speech and to always vote with the Speaker. In other words if you go along you will get along.

Bob Jones followed the sage advice of Speaker Rayburn and he got along very well. Congressman Bob Jones served close to 30 years in the Congress from Scottsboro and the Tennessee Valley. He and John Sparkman were instrumental in transforming the Tennessee Valley into Alabama’s most dynamic, progressive and prosperous region of the State. They spearheaded the location and development of Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal. Bob Jones was one of Alabama’s greatest congressmen.

At the time of Bob Jones’ arrival in Congress in 1946 we had nine congressional seats. By the time, he left in the 1960’s we had dropped to eight. We now have seven. Folks, I hate to inform you of this but population growth estimates reveal that we are going to lose a seat after the next census in 2020.

Our current seven-person delegation consists of six Republicans and one Democrat. This sole Democratic seat is reserved for an African American. The Justice Department and Courts will not allow you to abolish that seat. Reapportionment will dictate that you begin with that premise.

The growth and geographic location of the Mobile/Baldwin district of Bradley Byrne cannot be altered, nor can the urban Tennessee Valley 5th District, nor the Jefferson/Shelby 6th District. They are unalterable and will also reveal growth in population. Our senior and most powerful Congressman,    Robert Aderholt’s 4th District has normal growth and you do not want to disrupt his tenure path. Therefore, the odd man out may be a woman. It is conjectured that Martha Roby’s 2nd District is the one on the chopping block. Her second and Mike Rogers’ 3rd District will be combined into a new 2nd district.

However, Roby may exit before she is carved out. She made a colossal blunder in 2016 by denouncing and publicly stating that she was not going to vote her party’s GOP nominee, Donald Trump. The fallout was devastating. She has become a pariah in her southeast Alabama district. It is one of the most conservative and pro-Republican districts in the state.

She may survive 2018, because any serious challenger who has their own money to buy the seat may be wise enough to realize that District will not be here in four more years. It will be over in Georgia around Atlanta.

Turnout is the key next Tuesday

By Steve Flowers
The final vote for the remaining three years of Jeff Sessions six-year term in the U.S. Senate will be next Tuesday.  The race is between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.
   Jeff Sessions is probably sorry he left his safe Senate seat of 20-years to be at the Justice Department in a tentative position with constant ridicule from an irrational, egomaniac as president.
   It would be highly unlikely that a Democrat could beat a Republican for a U.S. Senate Seat in the Heart of Dixie.  We are one of the most reliably Republican states in America, especially when it comes to federal offices.
  However, this is a special election and not a normal election.  That means you have to really want to go vote for either Jones or Moore in the middle of Christmas Season.  Most folks particularly 25-45 year olds could not care less who is our Junior U.S. Senator.  That group of folks is more interested in how they are going to make their mortgage payment, what they are going to have for supper, and whether their kid got to their soccer game.
   Therefore, the question is who has the most ardent, fervent, and dedicated followers.  Without question, that is Roy Moore the “Ten Commandments Judge.” Polls have consistently shown that 30-percent of Alabamians will vote for Roy Moore come hell or high water and 70-percent will not vote for him under any circumstances.
   A poll is a picture of the entire electorate.  The final poll and the only one that counts is the one where they count the votes of the folks that showed up to vote on Election Day. That poll favors Roy Moore.  His followers will show up to vote.  They are dedicated to Moore and they are dedicated to voting.  They are also older and older people vote with more propensity than younger voters.  In addition, white voters vote at a higher percentage than black voters.  Our state is essentially divided by racial lines.  Most Democratic voters are black and most Republican voters are white.  It’s that simple.
   Politics and political races are about numbers.  As a boy, I would spend time with my old veteran Probate Judge.  He had been Probate Judge of my county for 30-years, a State Senator, and Sheriff prior to his becoming King of the County.  He would give me the very boring task of studying voting returns of boxes in the county. He would say the first lesson of politics is to learn how to count.
   In the first Republican primary there were 425,000 votes cast in the Senate race.  On the other hand, there were 165,000 Democratic votes cast.  Moore got over 200,000 votes in the GOP runoff against Luther Strange.
    Undoubtedly, Moore is a very polarizing figure.  Like George Wallace, either you like him or you do not. More sophisticated, urbane voters in the state detest Moore and they will not vote for him.  About the time of the Strange vs. Moore runoff contest, a friend of mine hosted a book signing party for me in his Mountain Brook home.  There were about 50 upscale Jefferson County people at the event.  Almost every one of them came up to me and told me that they were Republicans, but if Roy Moore is the GOP nominee, they will vote for Doug Jones.
   Indeed, you can drive through upscale neighborhoods of Jefferson County, especially Mountain Brook, Vestavia and Homewood and you will see Doug Jones signs in practically every yard. You can see this same scenario in upscale enclaves of Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery. However, be reminded that George Wallace never carried Mountain Brook.  The folks in the barbershops and beauty parlors in Opp, Oxford, and Rainbow City elect our governors and senators.
   Doug Jones is running an excellent campaign.  He is a good candidate.  However, he is very much out of the mainstream of the majority of Alabama voters, especially on social issues when it comes to guns, abortion, immigration, gay marriage, and transgenders in a weakened military.  He is a real national Democrat and he does not shy away from his liberal positions.  There is no difference between Doug Jones and Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi.  He is proud of his stance.  He could run for Senator of California and be in the mainstream and probably be elected. However, not in the Heart of Dixie.
   Doug Jones may get close, but close only counts in horseshoes. My guess is that the white voter who attends an evangelical mega church in Gardendale is more likely to vote on Tuesday than a black voter in North Birmingham.
   We will see.  Turnout is the key.

Fond memories of an Alabama gentleman

 

 

By Steve Flowers

Jim Martin passed away recently in Gadsden at 99 years old.  His beloved wife of 70 years, Pat, was by his side.  He was a true Christian gentleman.  Jim was one of the Fathers of the modern Republican Party in the South.

In 1962, John Kennedy was President. Camelot was in full bloom.  The Congress was controlled by Democrats only because the South was solidly Democratic. The southern bloc of senators and congressmen were all Democrats. Because of their enormous seniority, they controlled both houses of Congress.

The issue of Civil Rights was a tempest set to blow off the Capitol dome. Kennedy was under intense pressure to pass major Civil Rights legislation. However, he was up against a stonewall to get it past the powerful bloc of southern senators.

Race was the only issue in the South, especially in Alabama. George Wallace was riding the race issue to the Governor’s office for his first term.  The white southern voter was determined to stand firm against integration and was poised to cast their vote for the most ardent segregationists on the ballot.

Our Congressional delegation was Democratic, all eight Congressmen and both Senators.  Our tandem of John Sparkman and Lister Hill had a combined 40-years of service.

Lister Hill had gone to the U.S. Senate in 1938. He had served four six-year terms and had become a national celebrity in his 24 years in the Senate. He was up for election to his fifth six-year term. It was expected to be a coronation.  He was reserved, aristocratic, and almost felt as if he was above campaigning. Hill was also soft on the race issue. He was a progressive who refused race-bait.

Out of nowhere a handsome, articulate, young Gadsden businessman, Jim Martin, appeared on the scene. Martin was 42, a decorated World War II officer who fought with Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe. He entered as a private and became an integral part of Patton’s team, rising to the rank of Major. After the war he went to work for Amoco Oil and married a Miss Alabama – Pat McDaniel from Clanton. They then settled in Gadsden and he bought an oil distributorship and became successful in business. He was a business Republican and became active in the State Chamber of Commerce. When the State Chamber Board went to Washington to visit the Congressional delegation, they were treated rudely by our Democratic delegates who were still voting their progressive New Deal, pro union philosophy.

Martin left Washington and decided that Alabama at least needed a two party system and that he would be the sacrificial lamb to take on the venerable Lister Hill as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. Martin got the nomination in a convention and the David vs. Goliath race was on. By late summer the Big City newspapers could feel that Martin had some momentum. He was being perceived as the conservative and Hill as the liberal.

Every Alabama courthouse was Democratic, all sheriffs, Probate Judges, and statewide elected officials. It was hard to imagine that the tradition of voting Democratic would change, but the winds of segregation were strong. When the votes were counted in November of 1962, Martin had pulled off the biggest upset in the nation. NBC’s team of Huntley and Brinkley reported the phenomenon on the nightly news. Republican President, Eisenhower, called Martin to congratulate him. However, things were happening in rural North Alabama. Martin had won by 6,000 votes but three days later, mysterious boxes appeared with just enough votes to give Hill the belated victory. The entire country and most Alabamians knew that Jim Martin had been counted out.

Jim Martin would have been the first Republican Senator from the South in a century.  Some people speculate that he would have been the vice-presidential candidate with Nixon in 1968. Regardless, he was the John the Baptist of the Southern Republican sweep of 1964, and father of the modern Republican Party in Alabama.

That 1962 Senate race was a precursor of what was to come two years later. Jim Martin was one-of-five Republicans swept into Congress in the 1964 Goldwater landslide.  He probably would have won the U.S. Senate seat of John Sparkman. However, he chose to run for governor against Lurleen Wallace.

In 1987 Martin became Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. As commissioner, Martin helped create the Forever Wild land preservation program. Jim Martin has a special place in Alabama political history.