Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The gubernatorial dark horses

  Well, folks, let’s put the final coup de grace to Robert Bentley's six-year reign as governor and move on. Ole Bentley was quite a story his last two years. He had become the ringleader of a circus and an infamous national cartoon character. The salacious and lurid details of his affair with Mrs. Rebekah Mason were a never ending, titillating saga. The story, along with his picture, could aptly be a plot for a tabloid or a soap opera. I will actually be surprised if it does not make it to television or even the movies.

  Unfortunately, this story will be his legacy as governor. He has no public policy initiatives to tout for posterity. He will be known as the “Love Gov.”

  Our last two governors may not have gone to jail like previous ones, but they garnered terrific nicknames for their exploits over their last years in office.

  Bob Riley spent his last year doing the bidding of the Indian gambling syndicate by closing down all the non-Indian casinos, earning himself the nickname of “Bingo Bob.”

  Ole Bentley, who appeared to be the least likely person to play the part, became a sex-crazed philanderer. His sordid romance tapes sounded like the x-rated version of Barney Fife sweet- talking Thelma Lou. Even the national media dubbed him the “Love Gov”.

  Bentley never really showed any genuine remorse or contrition. Even when he read his prepared resignation speech, it did not seem heartfelt or sincere. Those were just words wrapped in religion. He never seemed to apologize from the heart. He still seemed a little bit haughty.

  Having taught Sunday school for many years, one would have thought Bentley had taught some from the book of Proverbs. One of Solomon’s greatest proverbs says, “Pride goeth before a fall.”

  Early in the day of Bentley’s resignation, I was walking around the Capitol with rumors swirling that Bentley’s demise was imminent. I was wishing the best for ole Bentley. I thought about ole Big Jim Folsom standing on the Capitol steps when the press would pound on him and ask him to resign. He would say to them, “Y’all ain’t gonna get old Big Jim to quit. When I was a boy, growing up in Coffee County, my old pappy would make me get out of bed before daylight and go work in the fields chopping cotton and plowing behind a mule. I’d see a rain cloud come up and start praying for rain so I could quit for a while. My pappy would say, boy, it may cloud up, but it ain’t gonna rain on Big Jim.”

  Well, bless his heart, it did rain on Bentley. He’s gone. Kay Ivey will serve out the remaining 19 months of his term. She may decide to run for a full term of her own as governor. As the incumbent governor, she would be a viable candidate.

  There is an ever-growing list of potential and probable horses that are gearing up for the 2018 gubernatorial derby. The list of viable candidates stands at about a dozen.

  But let me tell you again, like I have been telling you for years, Alabamians like to vote for a dark horse for governor – one who has not been around the political track. Let me give you the names of two very rich businessmen who could pull off a Fob James 1978-like coup.

  Jimmy Rane, known as “Yella Fella” from his ads featuring him riding a horse, wearing a big yellow hat and advertising his yellow lumber, started out and built Great Southern Wood out of Abbeville where he was born and raised and still calls home. Forbes magazine has his net worth at $600 million.

  Johnny Johns became CEO of Birmingham-based Protective Life at a young age. He built the company started by Colonel Rushton into one of the largest life insurance companies in the world. When an international corporation bought Protective several years ago, Johnny walked away with $300 million. He is known throughout Birmingham as one of the most civic-minded people in the Magic City.

  Either one of these two distinguished gentlemen could easily buy the governor’s office with their pocket change, and they may be interested.

  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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