Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – More analysis of the GOP runoff

  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 Roby 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, back-bench 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 Commissioner 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 80s and 90s, Cullman County claimed two governors, Guy Hunt and Jim Folsom, Jr. Of course, little Jim’s daddy, Big Jim, was governor in the 1940s and 50s. 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 the 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.

  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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