Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Alabama 2014 crystal ball

  It is always fun to look towards the political horizon and take a glimpse into the proverbial crystal ball and speculate as to the future of our potential Alabama political players.

  In order to conjure up the future stars you obviously look to the current players on the stage. When you look at our current top constitutional officeholders I am reminded of a hilarious scene portrayed by one of my favorite actors of all time, Jack Nicholson. In the famous movie, “Terms of Endearment,” Nicholson is paired with Shirley McLain. They are both in their 50’s and single and wind up living next door to each other in Houston. Nicholson is a carefree playboy who has a penchant for dating darling young women half his age. In a rare lapse he briefly dates McLain but they become friends. Late in the movie they are visiting over lunch. A decade has passed and they are now in their 60’s. McLain inquires of Nicholson, well are you still dating young girls? Nicholson replies, yes, pretty much. Then Nicholson turns the question to McLain and asks, what about you? McLain answers, I’m still looking for the love of my life. Nicholson, in his vintage wicked eyebrow raised sinister look wryly says to the unsuspecting McLain, well sugar, there aren’t that many more shopping days ‘til Christmas.

  The next statewide election of constitutional officers is 2014. It will get here in a hurry. Our governor, lieutenant governor and agriculture commissioner will be approaching or in their 70’s. The biblical lifespan is three score and ten. Modern medicine has extended life expectancy and vibrancy well past that benchmark. However, politically these three probably have not got many more shopping days ‘til Christmas on the political stage.

  Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan gladly says he simply wants to stay in his post for eight years and has his eye on no other office. The linchpin in the 2014 equation is Gov. Bentley. You have to assume that he will run for a second term. If he does, he will be a safe bet to win. The economy and state revenue have nowhere else to go but up. He will benefit from any upturn. He will not have any problem raising campaign many as an incumbent governor if he goes for a second term.

  If Bentley does decide to run for reelection, then all the major officeholders have no recourse but to stay put. Kay Ivey and Luther Strange will be relegated to running for reelection as lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively. In the lower ranks Secretary of State Beth Chapman and State Auditor Samantha Shaw must leave their posts in 2014. Therefore, they could do like Agnes Baggett and Melba Till Allen use to do in the old days and swap offices. They cannot go to Treasurer because Young Boozer is occupying that office and can run for a second term.

  It is a different story if Bentley does not seek a second term. It is complete Katie bar the door fruit basket turnover. Ivey, Strange, and Boozer, as well as Speaker Mike Hubbard, Bradley Byrne and a host of others would have to eye a shot at the brass ring. Beth Chapman would definitely look at moving up, probably to lieutenant governor.

  There are a host of attractive potential statewide candidates in the Republican laden State House and Senate. Senators Slade Blackwell of Jefferson, Bill Holtzclaw of Madison, and President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston have some charisma and come from populous Republican enclaves. However, the two who may have the best potential are Senators Cam Ward from Shelby and Trip Pittman from Baldwin. They are both fast studies and come from two of the most important Republican bailiwicks in the State. In the House, the names on most lists include Speaker Mike Hubbard, along with Jay Love of Montgomery, Steve Clouse of Ozark and Paul DeMarco of Homewood.

  The two best Democratic horses in the State Senate stable are Senators Marc Keahey of Clarke County and Tammy Irons of Lauderdale. Although it remains to be seen whether a Democrat can win statewide today in Alabama, the only thoroughbred left in the statewide Democratic stable is Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. She comes up for reelection next year in 2012. She was elected five years ago in 2006. She is the only Democrat on the State Court and the last surviving statewide Democratic constitutional officeholder. The last time she ran was in a gubernatorial year. Next year she runs with Obama on top of ticket.

  It will be fun to watch the jockeying for position over the next few years. Politics never ends.

  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

No comments:

Post a Comment