Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The 2018 election pot is already boiling

  Labor Day is the traditional kickoff to an election year. Folks, our quadrennial gubernatorial election year is going to be a doozy. We are in for one heck of a political election season next year.

  Besides the governor’s race, we have an open lieutenant governor’s race, an open attorney general’s race, an open treasurer’s race, and an open agriculture commissioner’s race. We have statewide races for Alabama Secretary of State and Alabama Auditor. We have five seats up for election on the Alabama Supreme Court. One of those will be a hotly contested battle for Chief Justice. We have two seats up for election on the Alabama Public Service Commission.

  More importantly, we have local races on the 2018 ballot. Local races drive the turnout; all politics are local. All 67 sheriffs run, all probate judges run; there will also be local judicial races and all circuit clerks will run.

  All seven of our congressional seats will be on the ballot. Two of those seats will be in play. Second District Congresswoman Martha Roby is vulnerable and will be challenged, and Fifth District Congressman Mo Brooks angered the Washington establishment, Republican, moneyed power brokers by challenging Luther Strange, and he will be in a battle for his political life.

  The most important races will be for the 35 state Senate seats and 105 House of Representative seats. An unprecedented number of Senators and Representatives will not be running for reelection. Those legislative races will be where most of the special interest money will gravitate. Money follows money. The Alabama Legislature appropriates state dollars and makes laws. The governor proposes, and the legislature disposes.

  I have observed Alabama politics for quite a while, and 2018 is set to be the best circus I have seen... and I have seen some good ones. There may have been better governor’s races, but from top to bottom of the ballot, this may be the very best.

  The governor’s race is always the marquee battle royale in Alabama politics. It will get cranked up immediately after the September 26 Republican Senate Primary Runoff, which Roy Moore will probably win.

  Kay Ivey will officially announce soon. She really began her campaign the day she was sworn in earlier this year. One of her first acts made her a player in the 2018 gubernatorial contest. Robert Bentley had initially called for the election for the open U.S. Senate seat to be held in 2018. However, Ivey had seen polls that revealed that Roy Moore was going to win whatever race he ran for in 2018, whether it was governor or U.S. Senator. The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission made him a martyr and a hero when they removed him from his Chief Justice post. Neither she nor any host of potential horses would have beaten the "Ten Commandment Judge." However, she knew that the U.S. Senate seat would appeal to him.

  It was an adroit, brilliant, Machiavellian move by Ivey. She has moved into the governor’s office and looks gubernatorial. She is in the catbird’s seat in the race for a full four-year term. Her move to have a special election this year not only enhanced her odds for election, but it also cost the state over $10 million.

  Alabama House Ways and Means Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) has wisely prefiled a bill that would clarify the law and state that the election for a vacated Senate seat would be held as part of the next general election. It will save the cash-strapped Alabama General Fund a lot of money in the future.

  Even though Kay Ivey will be running as the incumbent in the upcoming gubernatorial contest, her entrance has not deterred some major players. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle will be a player. He could run on a platform of saying if I can make the rest of Alabama a semblance of Huntsville, I am your man. Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan has won two statewide races and is in the race.

  Several other viable candidates are not scared of Ivey. Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington, Birmingham evangelist Scott Dawson, and State Senator Bill Hightower are already in the GOP contest.

  Surprisingly, two Democratic thoroughbreds are poised to run. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb are ready to pull the trigger.

  Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh has moved to the lieutenant governor’s race. This is a prudent move by the 50-year-old state political veteran. She will be a prohibitive favorite to win that race. It is purely a name identification contest. Her positive name ID is very high.

  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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