Senator Shelby and appropriations

 

 

By Steve Flowers

In my book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Alabama Political Stories,” I suggest that based on seniority, tenure, power and prestige that Alabama’s greatest senators have been Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and Richard Shelby.

   Folks, Richard Shelby has probably forged to the front of that triumvirate with his elevation to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee in April.  

   The Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee makes the ultimate decision about how every federal United States dollar is spent.  Alabama has never had a U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman in our 200-year history.

   Shelby’s prowess at bringing home the bacon is legendary.  You do not have to look very far to see the effects of Shelby’s power over his past 31 years as our U.S. Senator.  There is an entire section of the University of Alabama where he placed buildings that are an integral part of the University’s academic success.  All paid for with federal dollars.

   The state of the art biomedical research facility at UAB, all paid for with federal dollars, is there along with millions more in research grants because of Richard Shelby

   Huntsville and the Redstone Arsenal have been the benefactors of so much largesse from Shelby’s direct influence that it is not possible in the space of this column to enumerate the buildings and federal dollars that our crown jewel city has received over the years.

   Huntsville/Madison County and the entire Tennessee Valley are poised to become the envy of the nation in economic growth over the next decade.  There should be three gigantic monuments erected in Huntsville and put side by side of Werner Von Braun, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

   If truth were known, one of the reasons the Mazda/Toyota plant, with over 5000 high paying jobs, chose Huntsville was because of Richard Shelby.  

   Along with becoming Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he also took over the reins of the Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee.

   I am here to tell you that is big news for Alabama.  There is no state in America that is more reliant on federal dollars for defense installations, defense research and defense related employees than the good old Heart of Dixie.

   What facilities do you think will be protected and which bases will be guarded?  The Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Maxwell/Gunter in Montgomery and Ft. Rucker in the Wiregrass will be first in line when it comes to federal defense spending.  More importantly, those major economic engines of our state just received a gigantic umbrella protection policy from any military defense cutbacks.

   Senator Shelby has chaired several extremely important U.S. Senate committees over his three decades as our senator, including Intelligence, Banking, and Rules.  However, Appropriations is the crème-de la crème of committees.  Why?  Because it controls the gold.  “Those who have the gold make the rules.”

   Senator Shelby has brought home a lot of bacon to our state over the years, more than any U.S. Senator in Alabama History.  However, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  They have just given our senior U.S. Senator the key to the vault to the U.S. Treasury and he knows how to use it.

   And, guess what?  He is just in his second year of his sixth six-year term.  He is in the best health of any 84-year-old I have ever seen.  He has the soundness of mind and the physical stamina of a 60-year-old and he works out daily.

   The governor’s race is getting down to the proverbial lick log.  It looks as though Kay Ivey is in the catbird’s seat to win a full term of her own.  There is no reason to fret over her perceived aging, looks can be deceiving. Besides when you have Richard Shelby as a senior U.S. Senator we really do not even need a governor.

   Twinkle Cavanaugh is poised to win the Lt. Governor’s race. When the dust settles in November my prediction is that we will have a female governor and a female Lt. Governor, but more importantly we will have Richard Shelby as our senior U.S. Senator

Governor’s race draws near

 

 

By Steve Flowers

As we get down to the lick log in the 2018 June Primary, there are few if any surprises in any of the major state races. Polling indicates that all of the contests are about where they were three or four months ago when the races began.

   There is a tremendous amount of apathy and indifference as we head into the final days. This lack of enthusiasm has also affected fundraising. Most of the high-profile races have not attracted the amount of dollars as in the past.

   Kay Ivey is sitting on a sizeable lead in the GOP gubernatorial primary. She took a slight dip in the polls when she ducked out of debates. However, it is not as pronounced as it would have been if she had appeared. Her campaign has been managed brilliantly.

   Coincidentally, at the same time that her staff adroitly kept her out of the debates, her polling picked up that preserving the confederate monuments was an issue with conservative Republican primary voters. Kay’s media folks responded with an ad that could have come out of the George Wallace playbook. They had her telling folks that northern liberals and scalawags were not going to tell us what we are going to do with our monuments. Her resolve made folks wonder if she was actually there when the monuments were erected.

   Last week, with only three weeks until the primary, lesbian lawmaker and LGBTQ activist Patricia Todd suggested in social media posts that Kay was gay. Ms. Ivey adamantly denied the tweet. She has adroitly deflected any and all inquiries into her private life.

   The bottom line is that polls indicated she had a 30-point lead three months ago, and that lead is about the same now with less than two weeks to go to the Primary. The question is do her challengers push her into a runoff. Speculation is that she could win without a runoff the same way that her mentor, Lurleen Wallace, did in 1966.

The surprise in the GOP race could be Birmingham evangelist, Scott Dawson. He has run a very energetic campaign. Evangelical, rural, Roy Moore voters may be coalescing around the young minister. His strength might be underestimated by polling data.

   This white evangelical vote is ironically similar to the African American vote in the state. It is quiet and beats to a different drummer. The message resonates through word-of-mouth between church pews rather than through the media and social media. Although, it eventually gravitates to being somewhat in lock-step with a predictably higher than average turnout.

Most observers expect Huntsville mayor, Tommy Battle, to make a late run at Ivey. He has money in the bank. He will also come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with good Friends and Neighbors support. He should get enough votes to run second and force Ivey into a runoff. However, there will still be a 15-to-20 point spread in favor of Ivey when the votes are counted on June 5. Kay will have to put on her campaign bonnet for another six weeks. She will still not debate.

   The Democratic Primary for governor has two thoroughbreds battling it out for the opportunity to face the GOP candidate, probably Ivey. Polling in this race between former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is inconclusive.

   Most of the folks who vote in the Democratic Primary on June 5 will be African American. Although this vote is not monolithic, the pendulum swings toward one candidate.

   The African American leadership in the party is actively supporting Walt Maddox. He has also captured a good number of young white millennials and college students. My guess is that Maddox is the winner in the Democratic Primary.

Troy King will probably lead the balloting in the Attorney General contest. Alice Martin and Steve Marshall are battling for a place in the runoff with King.

   Twinkle Cavanaugh is poised to get a good vote in the Lt. Governor’s race. If she has a runoff, it will probably be Will Ainsworth from Sand Mountain, who has had a significant TV buy.

   State Senator Gerald Dial has surged in the Agriculture Commissioner race, primarily due to a brilliant and upbeat television ad. It is the best TV spot of the year. He is also benefiting immensely from grassroots support from rural volunteer firefighters throughout the state.

   Voter ambivalence favors incumbents and those who have voter name identification. Therefore, my prognostication is that when all of the votes are counted in November, we will have a female Republican Governor, Kay Ivey, and a female Republican Lt. Governor, Twinkle Cavanaugh.

   We will see.

Voter ambivalence, lower turnout

 

 

By Steve Flowers

Folks, we are less than three weeks away from our June 5th primary.  Besides the governor’s race, all of our secondary constitutional races are on the ballot.

     As we head into the home stretch, there appears to be very little interest in the primary elections.  People seem disinterested and disillusioned.  There have been a good many scandals and ethics convictions over the past quadrennium, which has put a damper on the enthusiasm generally associated with a gubernatorial election year.  Even fundraising has been down considerably.

      This voting ambivalence will result in a lower than normal turnout. This accrues to the advantage of incumbents and those with name identification.

     The governor’s race has not been that interesting.  However, the Democrats have fielded quality candidates in that race.  The winner of the June GOP Primary will have to mount a campaign in the fall against either Walt Maddox or Sue Bell Cobb.

     The secondary races are being lost in the shuffle of the avalanche of races on the ballot.  The best race, as was expected, has been the Attorney General contest.

     Former Governor, Robert Bentley, during his last days as governor, appointed an obscure former District Attorney named Steve Marshall, as the acting Attorney General.  As expected Marshall did the bidding of Bentley and allowed him leniency in any further prosecution.  Marshall has used every tool of incumbency to strong arm campaign contributions for his race for a full term.  However, polling indicates that his efforts will be to no avail.

     With so little interest in the secondary statewide races, former Attorney General Troy King, is perceived as the incumbent and enjoys a comfortable lead in this race due to his name identification. As we head to “Amen” corner, my guess is that King leads the race and former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin is in a runoff with Troy King.

     Birmingham attorney, Chess Bedsole, could be a late surprise if he spends a significant amount of his own money.  He is not a political novice.  He was an integral part of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

     The winner will probably face off against Joseph Siegelman, a handsome, progressive, young heir to an iconic Alabama Democratic name.

    The Lt. Governor race has changed very little since the beginning of the campaign season four months ago. Public Service Commission President, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, holds a commanding lead in all polls.  She knows how to run statewide and has headed the state Republican Party.  Even though her polling lead is daunting, her results in three weeks may even exceed her formidable lead in the polls.  She has built a statewide grassroots campaign organization over the years, which her two challengers lack.

     The last polls reveal that Twinkle Cavanaugh leads Mobile State Senator Rusty Glover and Sand Mountain State Representative Will Ainsworth.  Polls reveal that Glover will get a good friends and neighbors vote from his home Mobile region.  This may hold him in good stead in a race for Congress in two years, if Mobile-Baldwin Congressman Bradley Bryne runs for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

     Will Ainsworth has made a significant television buy in the lieutenant governor’s race, which should propel him into second place in that contest.

       Secretary of State John Merrill will waltz to a second term as Secretary of State.  He is the best retail politician on the Alabama political scene.  Even though he has token opposition, he has probably outworked every candidate on the ballot.  When his office counts all the ballots on June 6, Merrill will probably be the top vote getter in all statewide races.

      Right behind Merrill winning in a landslide, will be Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, who will have an overwhelming victory as State Treasurer.

     Rick Pate has gotten a lot of traction in the Agriculture Commissioner race.  He has garnered most of the major endorsements, including ALFA and BCA.

     Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker should coast to reelection victories as members of the Public Service Commission for another four years.

     Beeker, Oden and Twinkle Cavanaugh should benefit from their recent vote to save Alabama Power customers $337 million over the next two years, a cut made possible by the Trump administration and Republican Congress’ passage of federal tax reform.  

  Folks that is a big win for Alabama’s economy.  It is sure to put a smile on the faces of families and small business owners across the state. Cavanaugh, Beeker, and Oden deserve credit for making it happen.