Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Senate steps to the right

  The 2014 elections were quite uneventful. The seven statewide constitutional offices were all retained by Republicans. In fact, the reason the election was so dull was because the top five constitutional offices were held by incumbent Republicans who all waltzed to reelection. These included Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, State Treasurer Young Boozer, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and Attorney General Luther Strange.

  Therefore, the best races were in state senate contests. The Alabama Senate will remain overwhelmingly majority Republican. The numbers going into the new quadrennium will be 25 Republicans, nine Democrats and one Independent. It helped that the Republicans controlled the pencil when the legislature redrew the lines for reapportionment.

  In addition to controlling the Senate floor, the presiding officer who wields the gavel will be Republican Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey. The most important Senator has been and will continue to be Del Marsh from Anniston. He is the President Pro Tem. By virtue of his leadership position as President of the Senate, he became the target of well-financed opposition in both the Republican primary and again in the November General Election.  However, he prevailed both onslaughts and will return as conservative as ever.

  The Northwest Alabama District 1 seat was held by Democrat Tammy Irons. This is a district the GOP changed dramatically in order to carve out a Republican pick-up. Ms. Irons saw the writing on the wall. She chose not to run and indeed a Republican, Dr. Tim Melson, took the seat for the GOP.

  Huntsville Republican Bill Holtzclaw retained District 2 with no opposition in either the Primary or General Election.

  Sen. Arthur Orr experienced the same scenario in his Decatur based District 3 seat. He, however, stockpiled a lot of campaign money for a future statewide race in 2018.

  Republican Senator Paul Bussman had very little opposition holding onto his Cullman-based District 4.

  State Senator Greg Reed of Jasper will return to his District 5 Republican seat. He is extremely popular in his area and is considered one of the rising stars in the Alabama Senate.

  Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead made it a personal mission to defeat veteran Senator Roger Bedford. The GOP unseated the Democratic icon with Dr. Larry Stutts.

  The very Republican Senator Paul Sanford will return to represent his suburban Huntsville district. Steve Livingston kept the Northeast Alabama District 8 seat in the GOP column, and the same is true for incumbent Republican Senator Clay Scofield, who ran unopposed in the Primary and General Election.

  The suburban Republican enclaves of Jefferson and Shelby counties saw three popular incumbent senators run unopposed. Senators Jabo Waggoner, Cam Ward and Slade Blackwell will return. The three urban Democratic districts of Jefferson County will remain Democratic with Senators Roger Smitherman, Priscilla Dunn and Linda Coleman all returning. The same is true for Black Belt Democratic Senators Hank Sanders, Bobby Singleton and Quinton Ross

  Dr. Jim McClendon defeated incumbent Jerry Fielding in the GOP primary in June. However, the St. Clair County seat is solidly Republican. Shay Shelnutt will replace Scott Beason in the conservative Republican North Jefferson Senate seat.

  Popular incumbent Republican Senator Dick Brewbaker ran unopposed in his Montgomery seat, and newcomer Clyde Chambliss captured the open Republican seat in suburban Autauga and Elmore counties. Longtime Wiregrass Senator Jimmy Holley trounced his GOP primary opponent to return for another four years. Baldwin and Mobile Republicans Trip Pittman, Rusty Glover and Bill Hightower waltzed to reelection, as did Democrat Vivian Figures.

  The loan Independent Senator, Harri Ann Smith, turned back a challenge from a well-financed Republican opponent in her Dothan Wiregrass district. She will continue to represent one of the state’s most Republican districts as an Independent.

  In short, the Alabama Senate became even more Republican. It will be a very conservative chamber.

  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 http://www.steveflowers.us/. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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