Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Your next U.S. Senator will be....

  As the race for our open U.S. Senate seat begins, let’s look at the lay of the land.

  First of all, it will be a sprint. The race is upon us with the primaries on August 15 and the run-off six weeks later on September 26. The Republican primary victor will be coronated on December 12. We in the Heart of Dixie are a one-party state when it comes to major statewide offices. Winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election.

  With 10 Republicans in the race, it will be highly unlikely that anybody can win without a run-off, so the initial goal is to make the run-off. There are amazingly 19 candidates who qualified.  You can write the 8 Democrats off as irrelevant because a Democrat cannot win in Alabama. With 11 Republicans running, it appears to be a crowded race. However, 6 of the 11 are “run for the fun of it” qualifiers. Therefore, even though the field has a lot of horses, there are only 5 of the 19 who could be considered thoroughbreds, and probably only 3 who have a viable chance to win.

  Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and former Alabama Attorney General and Robert Bentley's appointee to the Senate, Luther Strange, are more than likely headed to a run-off. Huntsville and Tennessee Valley Congressman Mo Brooks has the best chance to challenge for a run-off spot. Initial polling has Roy Moore at 30 percent, Luther Strange at 14 percent, and Mo Brooks at 7 percent.

  Roy Moore’s removal from his post as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by the Judicial Inquiry Commission has made him a hero and martyr among Alabama’s conservative and religious voters. There is a pent-up desire among these voters to right a perceived wrong. It is obviously showing up in the polling and could result in a higher than anticipated level of turnout.

  Polls are a snapshot of the total pool of voters. However, the final poll and the one that really matters is who actually shows up to vote on August 15. Roy Moore’s folks will be there; they are ardent and angry. They will not be at the lake or the beach. In fact, if there is an extremely low turnout, Moore could conceivably win without a run-off. That is unlikely, though. However, he will more than likely finish first.

  Luther Strange will be fighting to hold on to the other spot in the September 26 election. He will more than likely prevail in his quest to get into the run-off and keep the seat. Luther will have $10 million of Washington establishment super PAC ammunition at his disposal. It is hard to overcome that kind of money. It is the mother’s milk of politics. Luther is banking on the fact that most U.S. Senate seats are bought by special interest money. Folks, $10 million dollars washes a lot of stain away from the Bentley-to-Luther deal.

  It looks inevitable that Roy Moore and Luther Strange will be in a run-off, and the prevailing opinion is that Moore cannot get over 50 percent. However, polling indicates that neither Moore nor Strange can get over 50 percent. They both have a large base of detractors.

  This race was ripe to be won by a wealthy outside who could spend $10 million of their own money. “Yella Fella” Jimmy Rane walked away from a U.S. Senate seat that was his for the taking.

  Congressman Mo Brooks has the best chance to knock Strange out of the run-off. He starts off with a base of support in the Tennessee Valley and $1.2 million in his federal war chest. If he were to raise $3 million, he could probably beat Luther in the primary, then probably beat Moore in the runoff.

  Brooks is to the right of Attila the Hun and belongs to a right-wing congressional group known as the Freedom Caucus. There are some very rich right-wing zealots around the country who give to Freedom Caucus candidates. They may load ole’ Mo up and teach the elitist establishment, Mitch McConnell crowd a lesson.

  If Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman of Baldwin County could raise $5 million, he could be a contender. He is the only serious candidate from the vote-rich Baldwin/Mobile area.

  Dr. Randy Brinson has the perfect background, narrative, and family values story. However, like Pittman, he needs $5 million to tell his story.

  We will see.

  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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