Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: U.S. Senate runoff moved to July

  The GOP contest to determine who sits in our number two U.S. Senate seat has been delayed until July 14, 2020 due to the coronavirus. The winner of the battle between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville will more than likely be our junior US. Senator for six years.  

  Neither are spring chickens. Sessions will be 74 and Tuberville will be 66 when the winner takes office. This is not the optimum age to be a freshman U.S. Senator because seniority equates to superiority in the U.S. Senate. Given their age of arrival, neither will be given much deference or have much influence. Sessions’ 20 years of experience goes for naught. He does not get his seniority back. Instead, he goes to the back of the line as would Tuberville.

  Sessions really does not want to be influential. During his tenure he wanted to be the choir boy and Eagle Scout of the Senate. He was the most honest and conservative member of the Senate. He wore that badge proudly and would again.  

  Tuberville is planning to be Trump’s bodyguard and valet. He will not know where the bathroom is, what committees he has been placed on, or where to sit, much less how to pass a bill or get anything accomplished for Alabama. After about six years, he will realize he is a Senator from Alabama, not Arkansas or Florida. His only mission as a campaigner appears to be that he can shoot a gun and wants to be Donald Trump’s pawn.

  The irony with this Trump love affair is legitimate polling that points to a Tuberville victory but also a Trump loss. Trump probably is not going to be president when either Tuberville or Sessions takes office. Anybody with a cursory knowledge of how our president is elected under the Electoral College System realizes that if Trump loses any of the key pivotal battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Pennsylvania, he loses the Whitehouse. If Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, current polling clearly has him favored to carry all of those states. He is pretty much a lock to win his home state of Pennsylvania.

  The winner of the Tuberville-Sessions contest will be our junior senator. Either one will likely beat our anomaly, Democrat Doug Jones, probably 60% to 40%. Being the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in the Heart of Dixie is usually tantamount to election, especially in a presidential election year with Donald Trump atop the ticket.

  It really does not matter which one is elected; they both will vote conservatively and look at their roles as being a reactionary ideologue. Neither will garner much power. However, that does not matter when you have Sen. Richard Shelby as your senior Senator. He has enough power that we really do not need a second senator.

  Most pundits were saying Tuberville had momentum and was heading towards a victory, especially with Trump’s endorsement.  However, with 15 weeks to prepare rather than 10 days, it is a new ballgame.

  Allow me to mention two caveats I have shared with you over the years. First, Alabamians have shown a unique but overwhelming aversion to one politician endorsing another for another office. I was taught this rule of Alabama politics when I was a young legislator.  

  It is a cardinal rule in Alabama politics that you do not get involved in other races. Alabamians have a very dim view of this practice. They seem to be saying: “We elected you to your office. You ought to be thankful for that and not think that you are so good and anointed that you should to tell us who to vote to place in another office.”

  George Wallace, in his hey-day and when he was at the height of his popularity, would endorse someone and invariably, they would lose. Less y’all forget, Trump endorsed Luther Strange for this same seat. Strange then lost to Roy Moore. Then Trump endorsed Roy Moore, and he immediately lost to Doug Jones. Alabamians do not think much of endorsements. In fact, they resent them.

  The second caveat is Alabamians will universally, overwhelmingly vote for someone from their neck of the woods. It is called “friends and neighbors” politics. Jeff Sessions lives in and is from Mobile. Voter turnout in Mobile-Baldwin is going to be the highest in the state because there is a toss-up runoff race between Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower to fill Bradley Byrne’s 1st Congressional District seat.

  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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