Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – GOP Primary Runoff analysis

  The storyline of last week’s GOP Primary Runoff was the extremely low turnout. The big surprises to me were the big victories by Steve Marshall for Attorney General and Martha Roby for Congress. Both winning was not a surprise; however, their margins of victory were impressive.

  Going into the runoff, my guess was that whichever candidate 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, which occurred during the runoff.

  King 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 Lieutenant Governor’s race ended about like I expected it would. 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 Lieutenant 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 Lieutenant 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 day's 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.  Number two is that 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 were 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 the 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; they also 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.

  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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