Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 2020 U.S. Senate race right around the corner

  Even though qualifying does not begin until October 8, 2019, the field is probably set for the GOP Primary in March to unseat Democrat Doug Jones, who is sitting in Alabama’s Republican U.S. Senate seat.

  First District Congressman Bradley Bryne and Secretary of State John Merrill may be the favorites to lead the field and square off in a runoff. Either of the two will probably win by a 60-40 margin over Jones in November.

  The wild card in the race is the iconic character, Roy Moore. He should not be underestimated. He could upset the applecart. He is the only GOP candidate that could possibly lose to Jones. However, in the GOP Primary, Moore has a base of support that is very loyal, older, and will show up to vote in the primary. My guess is that his base has dwindled to 15 percent, but if there is a low turnout, that number will become accentuated. Moore will not deviate from his message, and he will again ride his horse Sassy to vote in Gallant in his native Etowah County.

  One-time Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville is hard to figure out. He has released polls showing that he is in the lead, but my guess is that he will implode. He has not lived in Alabama for over a decade and supposedly had a Florida driver’s license and was registered to vote in Florida when he decided to run. Although, Tuberville’s garnering of the ALFA/Farmer’s Federation endorsement last week is big. This endorsement gives his campaign tremendous credibility. It is a significant and helpful boost in a statewide Republican Primary. However, it is doubtful that he realizes the importance of the endorsement.

  A well-known female officeholder like Twinkle Cavanaugh could have been a player in this race.  However, she chose to run for reelection as the Alabama Public Service Commission president.

  The most astute politician in Alabama political history was one George C. Wallace. He was a political genius, especially when it came to Alabama politics. When I was a young legislator, he would invite me down to the governor’s office to talk politics. The legislature met in the Capitol in those days, and I could just walk down a flight of steps to his suite of offices. He would be holed up back in the private office where I have met with a good many governors over the years. Kay Ivey sits in Wallace’s office today. He would greet me with the same message each time as we sat down for a visit. He really liked to reminisce with his ever-present cigar. In later years, as I sat with other governors, I would often wonder how they got Wallace’s cigar smoke out of that room.

  He really could not hear well in his later years, so he did most of the talking. He would cock his head in a certain way and it would signal to me that he was going to impart some sage bit of wisdom. On more than one occasion, he would instill this message: more people vote against someone than for someone. He would then elaborate: “To win, you have got to have a boogeyman to run against.”

  He ran against integration for a decade. However, when black Alabamians began voting, he had to find a new boogeyman. He went back to the old tried and true path used by most populist southern demagogues - he ran against the Big Mules.

  Big Jim Folsom was better than Wallace at this game. Big Jim never deviated from his message. It was about running against the Big Mules and Big Planters. Big Jim refused to race bait. He was always a true blue progressive.

  Well, my advice to these Republican candidates for the 2020 U.S. Senate race is that you have the perfect, ideal boogeyman to run against. He is actually your legitimate opponent sitting right in front of you. It’s Doug Jones, stupid. In the Heart of Dixie - in one of, if not the most Republican states in America - you have sitting in your Republican U.S. Senate seat a liberal, national Democrat.

  Wallace would have loved that boogeyman, and he would not have had to conjure up one. Man, would he have loved to run against Doug Jones!

  Therefore, the best course of action for the Republican frontrunners would be to not go negative against each other or any other GOP candidate in the Republican Primary. Consistently focus on and run against Doug Jones and do not talk about your GOP opposition. Take some advice from another pretty good national politician - Ronald Reagan. President Reagan’s advice to fellow Republicans was the 11th Commandment: “Speak no ill of a fellow Republican.”

  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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