Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: How Alabama got a new U.S. Senator

  As we enter the 2018 campaign season, many of you have asked me to look back and analyze the 2017 Special Election U.S. Senate race and explain in depth what happened and why. The most asked question is how could a Democrat win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, and does this mean that we are now possibly a two-party state? I will give you numerous answers, however, the simple answer to why a Democrat won is that Roy Moore was the Republican nominee. Are we a state that can go either way in an open U.S. Senate seat race? As we have just seen, it is possible but not probable.

  The Democrat, Doug Jones, won in the perfect storm. We will probably never experience this same scenario again. There are two maxims in politics that over my years of following politics never fail and become truer and truer. The more things change, the more they stay the same. One is that money is the mother’s milk of politics. The second is that more people vote against someone or something than vote for someone or something.

  To the first adage, money is the mother’s milk of politics, nine times out of ten when one candidate outspends the other, the one who spends the most usually wins. When one outspends the other 3-to-1, they always win. In this race, the National Democratic Party saw an opening and they seized on it. 

  The people in "blue" America are mad as hell that Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton. Our senate race was the only race in town, or should we say the country. Not only do Democrats despise Trump, but when they heard that Alabama had a Republican candidate that is a pro-God, pro-gun, gun-toting, anti-abortion, horse-riding, religious zealot who said that he was not only against gay marriage but also said that gays were legally committing bestiality, the nation saw Roy Moore as a little extreme in today’s America. In addition, a good many people around the country believe he is a pedophile.

  The liberal money flowed into Alabama by the barrel. It came from New York and San Francisco and all liberal pockets throughout America. The bottom line is that the Democrat, Doug Jones, outspent the Republican, Roy Moore, 6-to-1; 18 million to 3 million, and that does not count the soft money spent by the national Democratic Party that was spent on getting out the vote.

  The book was written on Moore from the get-go. The first poll and the last poll revealed that 30 percent of Alabamians would vote for Roy Moore come hell or high water. However, he is so polarizing that a whopping 70 percent said that they would not vote for him under any circumstance.

  The reason that he won the Republican nomination was that his 30 percent became accentuated due to turnout. His voters are more ardent, fervent and frankly older. Moore’s 30 percent did indeed vote on December 12. The problem for Moore was that the 70 percent who detest him voted in larger numbers than expected.

  The biggest part of that 70 percent was African American voters who voted in epic, unparalleled proportions. It was statewide. It was not only in the urban counties of Jefferson, Montgomery, and Mobile but also the Black Belt. This tidal wave occurred in all 67 counties. African American voters came together in a crescendo and sent Roy Moore to a watery grave. Doug Jones owes his election to the Black voters and he knows it.

  A significant number of urbane, upscale, more educated, business-establishment Republicans voted against Moore, pragmatically. The image that Moore portrayed to the nation was bad for business and economic development. The best example of this was reflected in the results from Madison County. Huntsville is Alabama’s crown jewel and economic engine. Those voters generally vote Republican, but Moore lost Madison County by 20,000 votes.

  U.S. Senator Richard Shelby contributed to Moore’s defeat. He refused to vote for Moore and said that he would cast a write-in vote for an unknown Republican. Other Republicans follow suit. There were about 22,000 write-in votes. Moore lost by 21,000.

  So how does this play into 2018? It gives Walt Maddox and Sue Bell Cobb hope that under the perfect circumstances, a Democrat can win. However, it probably does not change the fact that a Republican gubernatorial or senatorial candidate will be favored to win 60/40. Luther Strange or Mo Brooks would have won the Senate race 60/40.

  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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