Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Sizing up the U.S. Senate field in Alabama

  The decisive move by newly-minted Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a Special Election for the Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat this year rather than next year changes the entire complexion of who will sit in that coveted seat.  It also redefines the landscape of an ever-changing Alabama political scene.

  This year will be an adventure as we elect a U.S. Senator, and concurrently the 2018 governor’s race will begin its evolution. We have already seen the downfall of a sitting governor this year. There is an assumption that only a Republican can win statewide office in Alabama, and winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election.

  The decision by Governor Ivey was the right decision. Most folks would assume that “forthwith” means this year rather than next year. It was also a wise political move by the governor if she wants to run for a full term.

  Ivey’s calling for the Special Election for Sessions’ seat so soon could be the death knell for Luther Strange.  By December, he may go from being the newest and tallest member of the U.S. Senate to the shortest-serving senator in Alabama history.  His defeat could be very inglorious and humiliating.

  With the election being this year, it will be the only show in town, and it will be a spectacle. Every politician who is in any office can run without risking his or her current post. In other words, everyone has a free shot, and it will be a free-for-all.

  Everyone will run against poor Big Luther. They will use their campaign resources to give you the ugly details of how Luther was placed in that seat by ole Robert Bentley. You will be told so many times that Bentley and Luther got together in a backroom with Rebekah and brokered a deal to sell Luther the Senate seat in return for Luther not prosecuting Bentley and Rebekah that you will know the story by heart. Luther will end up being as tarnished as Bentley.

  In about two weeks, when the Washington PACs see the polling that reveals Luther is in trouble, his campaign resources will be less than he had anticipated, and he may not be able to defend himself against the onslaught of negative ads.

  The question becomes, who will be the early frontrunners? Roy Moore enters as the favorite. His evangelical base becomes crystallized in a large field. It will probably reserve him a place in the run-off. Who will be the other candidate in the runoff? It may very well not be Luther Strange.

  The U.S. Senate is a select club. A cursory look around the chamber reveals very wealthy people and celebrities. Senate seats are bought by wealthy individuals in a good many cases. We have some people in Alabama who could very easily buy the Senate seat.

  The short period of time that exists to raise money for the August 15 primaries even further enhances the advantage for someone who can self-finance and write a big check. The name on most lists is the “Yella Fella” Jimmy Rane. He would sell. He is a natural salesman.

  Folks close to the Yella Fella get the feeling that he does not want to go to Washington at this time in his life. However, he is adamant and determined that Luther Strange will not remain in the seat. He could bankroll another candidate through a super PAC.

  Rumor has it that he will get behind Del Marsh. Marsh has his own money. However, he needs more money because he is totally unknown to many Alabama voters.

  I will keep you posted on the developments. I do not know how many of these folks will join the fray, but this is how I will handicap the horses at this time:

  Jimmy Rane and Roy Moore are one and two. Other possibilities are Congressman Robert Aderholt, Congressman Bradley Byrne, Luther Strange, Secretary of State John Merrill, Congressman Mo Brooks, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, State Senator Del Marsh, Trump Trumpeter Perry Hooper, Jr, State Senator Slade Blackwell, State Senator Trip Pittman, ADECA Director Jim Byard, State Senator Arthur Orr, and State Representative Ed Henry.

  It will be a great show.

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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