Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The first round of potential gubernatorial candidates

  Last week I gave you an alphabetical list of the 18 potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. We will begin this week handicapping them in descending order.

  The Number 18 horse is current Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. We will know whether the beleaguered Speaker of the House will remain in the derby by next March. He is on trial in Lee County. A grand jury indicted him over a year ago on 23 felony counts of ethics law violations. If he is convicted on any of the 23 charges, he becomes a felon and will not only be removed from my 2018 Alabama Derby, he will be removed from the House of Representatives and as Speaker of the House.

  If Hubbard survives prosecution, he will definitely be in the governor’s race and he will be in with a vengeance. His followers assume that he will be the beneficiary of a tremendous sympathy vote. He will have the benefit of being able to raise a large amount of campaign dough by virtue of being Speaker of the House. This has been his most advantageous attribute all along, and his fundraising ability will remain intact and might even be enhanced.

  Hubbard’s name identification, however, has been badly damaged. Even if he survives the trial, having been the subject of very negative publicity for nearly two years will be difficult to overcome. Regardless, if found innocent, Hubbard will most likely run for governor. He will remain on my list of viable gubernatorial candidates and probably move up significantly from Number 18. However, he will not make the top 10.

  The Number 17 horse is Alabama Supreme Court Justice Jim Main. Under Alabama law, a judge cannot seek election after they turn 70. Therefore Main will be prevented from seeking reelection to the Court in 2018. But he is a young looking 70-ish fellow and not ready to retire politically.

  Judge Main has been around Alabama politics all of his life. He grew up in Union Springs, went to Auburn, and became a pharmacist like his father. He then went to law school and became a lawyer. He practiced law in Anniston for 20 years, then moved to Montgomery to practice law with Jere Beasley.

  In the late 90s, Main was Gov. Fob James' Chief of Staff and legal advisor. Main then became a major player in Bob Riley’s administration as State Finance Director. He was appointed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 2009 and later to the Supreme Court. He won a full term in 2012.

  The Number 16 horse is Greg Reed, a young promising state senator. Reed came to the Alabama Senate with the GOP takeover in 2010. He is a Jasper attorney and very popular in his home district. Most political observers predict a bright future for Reed. He is plain spoken and his word is good. People trust him. That is why he has already risen to the rank of Senate Majority Leader.

  Reed will probably not be a candidate for governor though. Some would assume that he might run for lieutenant governor - and he could be a viable candidate for that post - but it is going to be a crowded field. My guess is that Senator Reed remains in the wenate and becomes President Pro Tem. The three GOP leaders ahead of him probably will not return to the upper chamber. Jabo Wagoner is expected to retire, and Arthur Orr and Del Marsh more than likely will run for statewide office. Today being President Pro Tem of the Senate is a lot more powerful than lieutenant governor, which is nothing more than a ceremonial position.

  The Number 15 horse is Alabama Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur. Senator Orr is Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee. That position allows him to raise lots of campaign money, which he has already done. He was unopposed in his last race and stockpiled a lot of money. He is handsome and marketable for television. My belief is that Senator Orr starts out running for governor, but drops back to the lieutenant governor’s race.

  The Number 14 horse is Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart, a fourth generation Annistonian. Stewart wants to run for governor, and some folks in Calhoun County say he has been running for governor all his life. He is a former University of Alabama SGA president and a lawyer by profession. It will be interesting to see if he pulls the trigger.

  We will continue analyzing the potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Derby 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 He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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