Who will be the best caretaker?

Steve Flowers


As the horse race for our open U.S. Senate seat heads down the stretch, let’s look at the lay of the land.
   All indications are that Roy Moore and Luther Strange are headed for a one-two finish on August 15 and ultimately a runoff on September 26. The winner of that match will be our junior U. S. Senator for the next three years of the Jeff Sessions’ seat term.
   The short window for the campaign helps Moore and Strange. They both have name identification and have run several successful campaigns for significant statewide offices
   Roy Moore has worked the rural areas of the state quietly without much money. Luther Strange has bought heavy TV time in the Birmingham media market hoping to turnout upscale suburban Republicans.
   A combination of polls as we head around the curve and into the last leg of the race has Moore at 30, Strange at 28 and Brooks at 18.
  The caveat to remember is that turnout is critical. Moore’s 30 percent will show up. Therefore, his final vote tally on August 15 could be higher than 30. A poll is a picture of the entire electorate. The poll that actually counts is the poll on August 15 and it is comprised of those that showed up to cast their ballot.
   Congressman Mo Brooks has the best chance to upset one of the two frontrunners. He represents the vote rich Tennessee Valley in Congress. He is the only viable candidate from that neck of the woods. He is a member of the Right Wing Freedom Caucus in Congress. If that ultra conservative group has a grassroots fundraising organization and they raise Mo some money, he could surprise and overcome Luther.
   There are two descriptions I like to use when assessing a U.S. Senator and the script they seek as your senator. Senator Richard Shelby is the ultimate caretaker. He has proven to be the greatest U.S. Senator in Alabama history. Over the past 30 years, he has brought home the bacon. He has also voted conservatively.
  In fact, if you compare the voting records of Shelby and Sessions they would be identical. However, Jeff Sessions would be categorized as an ideologue. He was an ultraconservative during his tenure in the Senate and was considered one of the upper bodies’ most arch right wing reactionaries. Therefore, would Roy Moore or Mo Brooks or Luther Strange be considered a caretaker or an ideologue?
   Mo Brooks has already proven to be an ideologue as a Congressman. There is no question but that Roy Moore would be the ultimate ideologue. He would arrive in Washington and by national standards would be the caricature that the Democratic Party would use as the poster boy that depicts how far right the Republican Party is today. It would be Moore’s mission to be perceived as the most ideologically religious zealot on the scene. Alabama would be known for having the most religious right wing senator in the nation. The national Democrats would use Roy Moore’s picture in every ad in every California race the same way Obama was used Alabama.
   Luther Strange would be in the mold of Senator Richard Shelby as a caretaker. Shelby would mentor Luther, who is more of a mainstream conservative.
   Strange, Moore or Brooks would all vote conservatively right down the line. They would have the identical voting record as Jeff Sessions or Richard Shelby on all the litmus test GOP issues like abortion, immigration, balanced budget, pro-military, pro-gun, pro-agriculture and most importantly the appointment and confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justices.
   However, without question, Luther Strange would be a much more effective U.S. Senator for Alabama than Roy Moore or Mo Brooks. He would be more of the type Senator that we have in Richard Shelby. We have had some greats like Shelby, Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and John Bankhead.
   Alabama would be better served to have a conservative caretaker in Washington than a reactionary right wing ideologue. However, Alabamians may prefer having a missionary in Washington rather than a visionary – at least those who show up to vote on August 15.
Steve Flowers is one of Alabama’s leading political columnists. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us

Sprint to the U.S. Senate


Steve Flowers


The race for our open U.S. Senate seat is evolving. Folks, we are in a brief 33-day sprint to the primary on August 15. The winner of the Republican Primary will be our next junior U.S. Senator. The December 12 General Election will be a coronation for the Republican. The eight Democratic candidates are irrelevant as are at least six of the Republican qualifiers.

It is doubtful that either candidate can win the August GOP Primary without a runoff. Therefore, the two left standing will square off on September 26, after six more weeks of grueling and negative campaigning.

All early indications pointed to a two-man race between Roy Moore and Luther Strange. However, both of these high profile veterans of state politics have high negatives. These high negatives surrounding Moore and Strange point to the high possibility of a third person winning this race.

The possible outside horse has emerged. Tennessee Valley Congressman, Mo Brooks, is gaining momentum. He could be the surprise in the race. Brooks garnered an amazing amount of free publicity by being one of the Republican Congressmen targeted and shot at in the June shooting of Republican congressional baseball players.

You cannot get any better introduction to Alabama voters than being given prime time news coverage as an Alabama Congressman who is so conservative that a left wing wacko, Bernie Sanders socialist gunman fires upon you while you are riding your bicycle to practice baseball for the Republican team.

It is now a three-man horserace heading into the homestretch. Every poll has Moore leading Strange and Brooks fighting for the runoff spot with the Ten Commandments Judge.

Polling indicates that the majority of GOP Primary voters in our state do not want to vote for either Roy Moore or Luther Strange. Both have a large reservoir of detractors. Middle of the road, urbane Republicans are turned off and embarrassed by Roy Moore. They look upon him as a demagoguing, backwoods, Primitive Baptist, religious nut. They cringe at how he might embarrass the state if he got to Washington. The Beltway Republican establishment fears Moore’s independence and religious zealot antics and demonstrations. That is why you will see millions of Washington Super PAC money flow into the Heart of Dixie to elect Luther Strange.

Luther’s negatives stem from the way he garnered the interim senate seat vacancy. The perception is that he is currently in Washington because of a brazen, audacious, corrupt deal between him and disgraced former governor, Robert Bentley. It looks to the average voter that Luther Strange and Robert Bentley were in collusion in a backroom deal where Bentley, in his waning hours as governor, gave Luther Strange the appointment in exchange for Luther, as Attorney General, not moving with prosecuting Bentley and his advisor.

Millions of Washington money may be able to wash away the Bentley taint. That is what Luther is banking on happening. You are seeing the avalanche of TV and media buys for Big Luther. His Washington handlers are scripting him to perfection. They are keeping him hidden out of sight. They are avoiding all media and debates. They will slip him into an event and get a photo of him there then quickly whisk him away. They will not allow him to be interviewed by any Alabama media. They do not want him to be asked about the appointment. He was pretty good about avoiding the media during his six years as Attorney General. Therefore, his following the instructions of the Potomac pros is an easy script to follow.

Two secondary officeholders could have probably bested Strange out of the runoff. John Merrill or Twinkle Cavanaugh would have been tough for Luther.

The two best candidates from the Congressional delegation would have been Congressmen Bradley Byrne or Robert Aderholt. Either of these two thoroughbreds would have made the runoff with Moore.

The Roy Moore versus Luther Strange battle illuminates a natural divide in the Republican Party. It is almost like two separate tribes.

It pits the evangelical, Donald Trump, George Wallace Republicans against the mainstream pro-business establishment Republicans.

As one North Alabamian told me, “We will see if Moses with his Ten Commandments comes down off Sand Mountain with the Hebrew children and slays the seven foot Philistine Mountain Brook giant.”


Steve Flowers is one of Alabama’s leading political columnists. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us

An eventful year, and it’s not over



Steve Flowers


As we take a mid-year look at Alabama politics, it has been an eventful first half of the year. It is not every year that a governor resigns mid-term. Governor Robert Bentley’s resignation from office on April 10 will more than likely be the most newsworthy story of the year.

Bentley’s saga had begun 18 months ago. His troubles stemmed from his relationship with his primary and probably only advisor, who was married to a quiet man whom Bentley placed in a vague $90,000 position with the state. It was a titillating story that led to an investigation and later finding by the State Ethics Commission that there was reasonable evidence that Bentley may have violated the law. Facing probable impeachment by the Legislature, Bentley resigned in disgrace.

The most noteworthy event was the appointment of our Junior U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to the powerful post of U.S. Attorney General. Sessions was one of President Donald Trump’s first Cabinet appointments.

Sessions departure from the Senate seat left open his coveted post. In his waning days as governor, Bentley interviewed about 20 qualified candidates for the interim appointment. Bentley eventually appointed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, a worthy choice.

However, the appointment of Strange caused tremendous furor among Alabamians. A few months earlier, Strange stated he was investigating the Governor. The appointment of the Attorney General to the seat had the appearance of a brazen act of collusion between the Governor and Strange.

Bentley resigned a month later and Strange went to Washington. Upon the resignation of Bentley, Lt. Governor, Kay Ivey, became the second female governor in state history. Ironically, Kay was a stalwart supporter and worked for our only other female governor, Lurleen Wallace, when she was in college over 50 years ago.

Governor Kay Ivey has shown calm, deliberative and wise leadership in her first three months as governor. She has done a good job and steadily stuck to her knitting governing, rather than cutting ribbons. She inherited the ship of state in the middle of a legislative session. She stayed in close contact with the Senate leadership and brought the session to a successful landing.

The legislative session could indeed be considered a success. Mac McCutcheon, a Republican Representative from Madison County, led his first regular session as Speaker. McCutchen is level headed and a natural facilitator. He is a retired police officer from Huntsville, who worked as a hostage negotiator. He seems fair and runs a more open and egalitarian House than former Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Any legislative session could be considered successful when both budgets are passed. The $1.8 billion General Fund budget passed early due to a one-time influx of $105 million from the BP oil spill settlement. The beleaguered General Fund will be much harder to balance next year, which will be an election year. For the eighth straight year, state workers got no increase in pay.

Even though the Education Trust Fund budget grew by $90 million, teachers also get no pay increase. The $6.4 billion Education budget did include a 20 percent increase in pre-kindergarten funding.

The Legislature abolished judicial override in death penalty cases, voted to require insurers to extend coverage to autism therapies, and ended the ban on midwifery in Alabama.

They chose not to address the prison overcrowding issue. However, this may be a prudent call. It may be wiser to wait until the federal courts decree what they want from the state. This could be a paramount issue that requires a Special Session.

The Republican majority ramrodded a reapportionment plan through the Senate and House over adamant disapproval of black Democrats. The final authority on whether it will stand rests with the federal courts. Until this is decided, there is a cloud over the upcoming legislative races. Republican legislators may have overplayed their hand this time. A federal judge may send Alabama’s demographics to a computer in New York to draw the lines and several of them may find themselves in the same districts several counties away.

Steve Flowers is one of Alabama’s leading political columnists. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us