Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Running the wrong race

  Much like business opportunities, the old adage of being at the right place at the right time rings very true in politics. Timing and picking the right race is everything. While picking up the pieces from this year’s races it occurred to me there were several candidates who fit the category of picking the wrong race.

  I have often times thought that Judge Roy Moore could have been reelected to the Supreme Court after his ouster as a result of his unbending stance over his Ten Commandments monument. Voters sympathize with Moore and believe he paid too high a tribute for his adamant position. He had some time accumulated in the lucrative state judicial system and another six year term on the Court could have secured a more comfortable retirement for him and his family. Folks just did not see him as a governor, but I believe that he could have been elected this year to the open seat on the high tribunal.

  Tim James set his sights on the governor’s office, maybe with an eye towards following in his father’s footsteps. Ironically, it is probably because of his father that he has failed in two attempts. He truly gave it his best shot this year. He spent two years of his life and over $2 million of his own money in the effort. It strikes me that his best race would have been for the 2nd congressional district when that seat came open two years ago. Congress is more of a name identification contest. His good looks and money would have made him hard to beat in that arena.

  Speaking of congress, the biggest puzzle of the year is why in the world Artur Davis left a safe congressional seat to make a high risk, kamikaze race for governor. He is 41 years old, had six years seniority under his belt, was on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and was best friends with the president. Most political aspirants would not have left that stellar career track if you offered them a four year term as governor as a guaranteed appointment, especially given the financial Armageddon facing the new governor. Davis could have been one of Alabama ’s greatest congressmen if he had stayed the course. He had a safe House seat for the next 20 to 30 years. If he wanted to leave congress for a higher office, the more logical race would have been to try to move to the U.S. Senate whenever Richard Shelby retires.

  Another candidate who undershot the mark was Billy Beasley, who won a state senate seat in the Black Belt. After serving three terms in the House, he chose to run for an open senate seat in an overwhelmingly African American district. Beasley, who is white, is strikingly handsome with a very laid back personality. His brother is Jere Beasley, the state’s leading plaintiff trial lawyer and former lieutenant governor. Billy Beasley ran a very professional campaign with high profile paid campaign staff. He outspent his opposition 6 to 1 and raised enough money to have won a statewide race.

  Beasley looks like a statewide candidate. He also looks a lot younger than his 70 years. He had some of the best television ads seen in the state. He had a lifetime black friend named Robert Pittman appear in the ads with him. Mr. Pittman’s statement exuded the most sincere and genuine endorsement of Beasley ever seen on television. He told viewers, Beasley is not for one kind of people, but all kind of people. Campaign gurus all over the country thought Pittman was a professional actor and have tried to garner his services. He declined saying he did it for his friend Beasley.

  Speaking of legislative races, the issue that is the pivotal death knell for any incumbent is the infamous 62 percent pay increase. It has already beaten several and will grab several more in November.

  A secondary legislative issue is the PACT program. The demise of this college tuition program personally affected over 100,000 Alabamians. It appears to be resolved for the time being, but is still not guaranteed. There is a lot of resentment among higher education leaders in the state over the deference given to Auburn University and the University of Alabama as a result of legislative action taken in the spring. The legislature imposed a 25 percent annual cap on tuition increases at all four year schools. However, they omitted Alabama and Auburn from the cap. All the other universities are livid over this unbridled favoritism. This travesty is festering among college and university administrators throughout the state. They will not forget.

  See you next week.

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama ’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at

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