Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Best races of the year have been for Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor

  The best races of the year have been for Alabama Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, as well as Agriculture Commissioner and for the 2nd Congressional District.

  The Attorney General post is considered the best stepping stone to Governor and U.S. Senator. It is very high profile and prosecutes bad guys who go to jail and cannot vote against you, and you look like a good guy to the rest of the law-abiding voters in the state. Therefore, in recent years it has attracted ambitious politicians rather than veteran, dedicated prosecutors. These aspirants were novices at being lawyers, much less prosecutors. They sought the position for political posturing rather than the job as the state’s top law enforcer. We have not had a tough DA since the days of Bill Baxley and Charlie Graddick.

  As the race began, there were three major candidates with prosecutorial experience. Troy King has been Attorney General, and Alice Martin has been the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Alabama handling numerous major high-profile convictions. Even Robert Bentley's appointee, Steve Marshall, has been a district attorney.

  Troy King began the race as the front-runner simply because he had some name identification from having been Attorney General. Early polls showed him with around 27 percent with Martin and Marshall at 10-12, and Chess Bedsole at 5-6.

  The final results wound up mirroring the amount of money spent by the candidates. There was an amazing correlation to "money = media = name identification," which results in votes. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

  Troy King and Steve Marshall ended up in a dead draw with 28 percent each. Alice Martin got 23 percent, and first-time candidate Chess Bedsole got a surprising and impressive 21 percent. He got a great vote in Mobile and Birmingham, especially in the silk stocking boxes. His $1 million media buy did not hurt.

  The runoff between Troy King and Steve Marshall will be interesting. Again, it will probably boil down to money. Marshall made the runoff by outspending Alice Martin significantly. He used the power of incumbency to strong-arm contributions. Both candidates will have to go negative. Marshall is more vulnerable. He campaigned for Obama and was a Democrat only a few years ago. He was appointed DA by Democrat Don Siegelman and was appointed Attorney General by Robert Bentley. These are not good calling cards in a GOP runoff. King will be the favorite on July 17.

  The winner will not get a free ride in November. Don Siegelman’s son, Joseph Siegelman, won the Democratic nomination on June 5 and will be a viable opponent in the fall.

  The Lieutenant Governor position has very little power. However, over the past few decades, the Lieutenant Governor has risen to Governor quite a few times. Therefore, this race has gotten a lot of attention from voters and campaign donors. Twinkle Cavanaugh entered the race as the favorite simply because of name identification. Will Ainsworth and Rusty Glover had very little of that. However, Ainsworth came to the dance with the ingredient to buy name ID. Money is that recipe. He had it, and he spent it. Cavanaugh wound up with 43 percent to Ainsworth’s 37 percent, and Glover’s 20 percent.

  Cavanaugh will be a slight favorite in the runoff. However, if Ainsworth spends another million and stays with negative or some say "comparison" ads, it will be close.

  Rick Pate bested Gerald Dial 40 to 30 in the Agriculture Commissioner race despite Dial outspending him with a catchy jingle ad. Alabamians inexplicably have a way of ascertaining who is the farmer in that race. Pate was the only farmer. The Alabama Farmer’s Federation endorsement helped him in the first primary.

  Over 61 percent of the 2nd Congressional District GOP voters voted against incumbent Martha Roby. Bobby Bright may very well win this rematch, which has been years in the making. Bright is well known and liked in the District, especially in the Wiregrass where he was born and raised as well as in Montgomery where he was mayor for 10 years.

  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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