Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 2020 campaigns are kicking off

  A lot has happened politically in the first quarter of 2019. The governor and all of our constitutional officials have been sworn in and have begun their four-year terms in office with Kay Ivey as governor, Will Ainsworth as lieutenant governor, John Merrill as Alabama Secretary of State, John McMillan as Alabama Treasurer, Rick Pate as Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, and Jim Ziegler in his second term as Alabama Auditor.

  More importantly, the Alabama Legislature has organized and the regular session begins next week. Lawmakers will be dealing with a myriad of major issues, not the least of which are the two state budgets. The legislature is more important than who the governor is in state government. The reason being is they appropriate the money. Those who have the gold make the rules. Another apropos adage is, the governor proposes but the legislature disposes.

  The powers in the 35-member Alabama Senate are Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Jabo Waggonner (R-Vestavia), Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Greg Albritton (R-Escambia). Orr and Albritton chair the Finance and Taxation Committees.

  The leadership of the House consists of Speaker Mac McCutchen (R-Madison), Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), Mike Jones (R-Covington), Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), and Steve Clouse (R-Ozark). Poole and Clouse chair the Budget Committees in the House.

  All of the above lawmakers are Republicans. There is a super majority Republican domination in both chambers. There are 77 Republicans in the House and only 28 Democrats. The Senate is comprised of 28 Republicans with only 7 Democrats. There is only one white Democrat in the Senate, Senator Billy Beasley of Barbour, George Wallace’s home county.

  As predicted, the 2020 campaigns have begun. We have a presidential campaign next year. It should be interesting. We also have a U.S. Senate race. Our anomaly, Democratic Junior U.S. Senator Doug Jones, will be running for a full term. His philosophy and voting record more closely reflect a California senator than his Alabama counterpart, Senator Richard Shelby.

  It would be safe to say that Jones will be the underdog next year. Unfortunately, for him, he more than likely will not have Roy Moore to run against. Although my guess is that Roy Moore might run. All of the early Republican entrees or prospects are up in age, which is not conducive to building seniority or power in the U.S. Senate. Roy Moore is over 70. State Auditor Jim Zeigler is 70. Congressman Bradley Byrne is 63, and state Senator Del Marsh is 62.

  Byrne and Ziegler have significant name identification having run statewide and built a statewide organization. They would be the early favorites. Marsh can be a player if he is willing to spend his personal money. It would take $2 to 3 million to put him in the game.

  Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth would be the perfect choice to take the seat. He is 37 years old and could build power for the state in Washington.

  The Republican to watch, if he enters the Senate race, is Secretary of State John Merrill. He has a free shot. He has the best and broadest statewide grassroots political organization in modern Alabama political history. Nobody will come close to outworking him. 

  The presidential campaign caravan has begun. There are a host of Democratic U.S. Senators lining up: Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are seeking the Democratic nomination. Also in is Julian Castro, who was secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

  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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