Primary political potpourri



By Steve Flowers

Now that the dust has settled on the primaries, allow me to share with you some thoughts on the Alabama political stage.

   There is an old saying that says the more things change, the more they stay the same. This old adage is true in Alabama politics.

   First of all, “All politics is local.”  In the June 5 Primary, the turnout was about 25 percent on the average around the state. However, the ultimate voter turnout was 27 percent due to local races.  Alabamians are more interested in who is sheriff and Probate Judge than who is Lt. Governor, or Attorney General.

   Secretary of State, John Merrill, predicted a 27 percent turnout on June 5.  Guess what, there was a 27 percent turnout.  Almost 873,000 Alabamians voted.  There were twice as many voters, 590,000, that chose the Republican ballot than the Democratic slate.  There were 283,000 Democratic voters.

   What this tells me is that we are still a very red Republican state.  We have 29 elected statewide officeholders in the state.  All 29 are Republican.  When all the votes are counted in November, that 29 out of 29 figure will still be more than likely the same in the Heart of Dixie.  The Democrats have a good horse in Walt Maddox.  He may run close to Kay Ivey, but the odds favor an incumbent GOP Governor who has done nothing wrong and sits in the Governor’s office in a robust economy.  I would put the odds at 56 to 44 in Ivey’s favor.

   The Legislature will remain about the same after the November General Election as we head into the next quadrennium. The Alabama House of Representatives will have an over 2 to 1 GOP majority.  The numbers will be about what they are now, 72 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

   The State Senate will more than likely have a 3 to 1 GOP edge.  The members now are 26 Republicans and eight Democrats and one Independent.  The Democrats may very well pick up a Senate Seat in Northwest Alabama with Johnny Mack Morrow vs Larry Stutts which will bring them to nine.  The Independent seat being held by Senator Harri Ann Smith in the Wiregrass is one of the most Republican in the state.  Harri Ann is retiring.  It will be taken by the very Republican and popular state representative, Donnie Chesteen.  

   Whoever made the decision to oust Harri Ann from the Republican Party six years ago made a very poor and ignorant decision.  She continued to be elected as an Independent.  Her popularity exudes my example of all politics is local and home folks know you best.

   The GOP control of the Senate will probably be 26 to 9 or 27 to 8.

   Speaking of control, the Big Dog still walks the halls of the State House.  The Alabama Farmers Federation or Alfa still controls the legislature.  They ran the table in legislative races all over the state.  That is because they ran most of the races for their candidates.  They are the kings of Goat Hill, the same way they were in 1901 when the state constitution was written.  The more things change the more they stay the same.

   Alfa perennially puts their power, muscle and interest in the legislature.  They endorse in the statewide races and their endorsement is invaluable, especially in secondary state races.  Their members vote that ballot and many conservative Alabamians look over the Farmers’ shoulder and vote along with them.

   Alfa may give a token contribution to the Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General, or Lt. Governor race and maybe $25,000 to the governor’s race.  However, it is not unusual for them to put up to $50,000 in a House race and over $100,000 into a Senate race, along with excellent political strategy and pastures along interstates to put big signs on.

   They use to play in the governor’s race.  However, they got burned badly by Bob Riley when they helped him get elected and the first thing he did was stab them in the back. However, they have slipped around this year and will not only own the legislature, they will probably have a good friend in the governor’s office.

   The day before the primary, Kay Ivey boarded Jimmy Ranes jet to fly around the state.  The first person to board with her was Beth Chapman, Alfa’s political consultant.  The next night when she came off the platform after giving her victory speech, guess who was helping her off the stage and holding her arm so that she would not fall?  It was Jimmy Parnell the Farmers Federation president.

   Folks do not look for property taxes to be increased in the Heart of Dixie over the next four years. 

A closer look at the recent election



By Steve Flowers

Currently,congressmen/women win reelection at a 98 percent rate.  The communist politburo does not have that high of a reelection percentage.  Maybe we have more in common with the Russians than Washington CNN reporters think.

  It is hard to get beat as an incumbent congressman.  Martha Roby tried but even though she was the most vulnerable Republican incumbent congressperson in the country, she shellacked a former Montgomery mayor, one term congressman, and doggone good country one-on-one politician Bobby Bright.  She beat him like a rented mule, 68-32.

  Two years ago, she blatantly said she was not going to vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, for President.  Trump and the Republican Party are very popular in the 2nd Congressional District.  It is one of the most conservative and GOP based districts in the nation.  Currently, Trump’s approval rating among GOP voters in the second district is 90 percent.

  Well, young Ms. Roby, became an instant pariah in her district.  She would have lost overwhelmingly had the 2016 GOP primary not just been over.  There was an unprecedented, record breaking, number of write in votes against her in the November 2016 General Election.

  It was assumed that whoever ran against her in this year’s GOP Primary would beat her.  She was scorned and mocked in her district and even uninvited to GOP events. Indeed, four viable men ran against her in the GOP Primary.  She outspent them four-to-one and still only got 39 percent to Bright’s 27 percent. 

  She pulled it out in the runoff for two reasons.  Donald Trump endorsed her, which was manna from heaven.  Trump is very popular in Southeast Alabama and the reason she was in the doghouse anyway was because she said she was not going to vote for Trump.  If Trump forgave her, then folks in Andalusia figured they would too. 

  However, the big reason she won was because of the incumbency rule mentioned earlier.  Washington special interest money stays with incumbents.  The Washington money stuck with her like glue.  She outspent Bright 9-to-1.  It is impossible to overcome that kind of financial advantage. 

  She learned her lesson.  Bet you won’t see her involved in somebody else’s race again.  It was an arrogant and unnecessary faux pas.  First of all, nobody cares who a three term, backbench congressperson is going to vote for as president.  Folks in a Republican district assume that you are going to vote for a fellow Republican. 

  The Agriculture race ended about as expected in the runoff.  Rick Pate led Gerald Dial 40-to-30 in the first primary.  Pate beat Dial 57-to-43 in the runoff.

 Pate is a lifetime farmer and longtime Farmers Federation leader.  The Alfa endorsement was critical in this race.  They loyally supported him.  Pate won even in the metropolitan counties.  Alabamians inexplicably have a way of picking the farmer in this race.

  The turnout in the GOP runoff was abysmal.  It was around 12 percent statewide.  However, in counties where there were local races, it was between 25-35 percent.  All politics is local.  Walker Country had 25 percent turnout because they had a tough sheriff race.  Marion had three local runoff races and voted at 28 percent. Marshall County had two local candidates running statewide, Will Ainsworth and Steve Marshall.  They voted 19 percent.

  In Alabama political history, Barbour County has been known as the Home of Governors, and indeed, six Alabama Governors have called Barbour County home.  In the 80’s and 90’s Cullman County claimed two Governors, Guy Hunt and Jim Folsom, Jr.  Of course, little Jim’s daddy, Big Jim, was governor in the 1940’s and 50’s.  That gave Cullman County three governors.  Tuscaloosa has had three governors.  They should rightfully claim Lurleen Wallace, who was born and raised in Northport.  Only a few years ago, Tuscaloosa had a unique advantage of claiming the Governor Robert Bentley and Alabama’s Senior Senator and most powerful politico, Richard Shelby, at the same time.

 However, the results of the Republican Primary have propelled Marshall County into the limelight. Beginning with the next quadrennium, Marshall County will more than likely lay claim to both Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth and Attorney General Steve Marshall.

  For generations the legendary Beat 14 in Elmore County was the Bellweather box in the state for predicting the governor’s race and mirroring the results statewide.  In recent years their clairvoyance has diminished. There is a new rival to Beat 14 in Elmore County, Patsburg in Crenshaw County has been getting it right for a while now.  In the July 17 runoff, Patsburg got every race correct.  As Patsburg goes, so goes the state.

Reviewing the runoff election



By Steve Flowers

The surprises to me were the big victories by Steve Marshall for Attorney General and Martha Roby for Congress.  Their winning was not a surprise; however, their margin of victory was impressive.

   Going into the runoff my guess was that whichever one won between Marshall or Troy King, would win by a narrow margin.  After all they had arrived at the runoff in a dead heat of 28 percent each.  It is hard to tell how Marshall was able to trounce King by a 62 to 38 margin.  The only logical theory would be that he got a sympathy vote from his wife’s death during the runoff.  

   King’s filing a suit over Marshall’s campaign fundraising, days before the election, hurt the former Attorney General.  It made him look like a loser.  Also, it became apparent to me during the campaign that both Marshall and King were polarizing figures.  Folks either liked them or they really did not like them.  

   King obviously made some enemies and detractors during his tenure as Attorney General.  As George Wallace used to tell me, “More folks vote against someone than for someone.”  King will probably be residing in Buck’s Pocket, politically, for the rest of his life.  However, he personally will be a lot better off, especially financially.  Just ask Jere Beasley.

   The Lt. Governor’s race ended about like I expected.  I thought it would be close and it was.  It was really the only nip and tuck battle of the night. Will Ainsworth was the big winner of this 2018 political year.  He went from being a one term state legislator from Sand Mountain to Lt. Governor of Alabama.  At age 37, he is now the youngest among the major players on the state political scene.  His narrow but impressive victory supplants Twinkle Cavanaugh as the heir apparent to governor.  This race attracted more money and attention than is usually the case, and for good reason.

   Our Lt. Governor has ascended to Governor more times than not in recent decades.  If Kay Ivey is elected Governor, as expected, she will more than likely only serve one four-year term.  Will Ainsworth with his victory last week has emerged as one of the favorites in the 2022 Governor’s race.

   How did young Ainsworth pull off his victory?  If you are an observer of Alabama politics, you can see the path clearly.  The more things change the more they stay the same. Ainsworth’s calling card from the get-go was that he had family money to spend.  Sometimes people have money and tout that as an advantage but, when push comes to shove, they won’t spend it. Ainsworth put his money where his mouth was.  He spent it.  

   Money is the mother’s milk of politics.  Ainsworth did a good days work when he hired whoever ran his campaign.  His polling and media were dead on and outstanding. His polling and media people knew when to go negative and how much to spend and what ad would work.  Thus, the truisms came into play.

   Number one – money talks.  It is the mother’s milk of politics.  Number two is more people vote against someone than for someone.  Thus, negative advertising works.  Thirdly, people in Alabama vote for someone from their neck of the woods.  Especially in secondary races.  

   Folks, there are a lot more people and votes in North Alabama than South Alabama.  There was a distinct regional delineation that Ainsworth was from the north and Twinkle’s base and home was in South Alabama.  North Alabama will beat South Alabama every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

   Finally, don’t ever run statewide in Alabama without the Alfa endorsement.  Make no doubt about it, folks, Alfa is still the big dog in Alabama politics.  They ran the table on all the statewide races in last Tuesday’s runoff.  The Alfa endorsement was the common thread that appeared in the final results of all races.

   Ainsworth’s name, as the endorsed candidate of the Farmers Federation ballot was without a doubt the difference in the 10,000-vote margin by which he edged Twinkle.

   In a low turnout race, the Farmers Federation endorsement becomes ever more pronounced and accentuated.  Farmers vote.  They vote Republican. They vote the Alfa ballot.

   They not only won every legislative race in the state that they wanted, which is their bread and butter, in addition they won the statewide offices.  So, you might say they got their dinner and dessert.  You can probably bet the family farm that property taxes will not be raised in the Heart of Dixie this next quadrennium.