Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Beth Chapman... on Rane's plane ride?

  Recently, I wrote about Alfa’s influence in Alabama politics. In my August 8 column, I said, the Alabama Farmers Federation still controls the Alabama Legislature. They used to play in the governor’s race. However, they got burned badly by Bob Riley when they helped him get elected, and the first thing he did was stab them in the back. They have slipped around this year, however, and will not only own the legislature but will probably have a good friend in the governor’s office as well.

  The day before the Republican Primary, Kay Ivey was on Jimmy Rane's jet to fly around the state. Boarding with her was Beth Chapman, Alfa’s political consultant. The next night when she came off the platform after giving her appreciation speech, guess who was helping her off the stage and holding her arm so that she would not fall. It was Jimmy Parnell, the Farmers Federation President.

  Well, I received a note from Debbee Hancock, an Ivey campaign spokesperson. She informed me that Beth Chapman was not actually on-board Jimmy Ranes’ plane that day when they flew the governor around the state. I politely told her that in watching the television footage, it looked to me like Chapman was in a finite group of people walking beside Governor Ivey to the plane. Even Brent Buchanan, the governor’s campaign manager, concurred with my assessment. He told me, “I was there with Beth and saw it on TV after. I totally see how you could have thought she was headed to the plane when the governor exited that way.”

  I told Ms. Hancock that I would clarify that Chapman did not actually board the plane, it just looked like she did. However, I told them that they should not be so sensitive about or ashamed of the Farmers’ friendship. I also told them that they should have given them a place on the plane. Most people assume that the Farmers’ would be for the Republican nominee for governor. 

  However, Hancock did not dispute the second part of my August 8 comments where I said that Jimmy Parnell, like the gentleman that he is, was helping Kay off the stage the next night. I advised both Hancock and Buchanan that they really should not allow her to go out alone and be expected to maneuver stage steps.

  Recently, one of Ivey’s people called me and told me I said the governor was senile. I told them that was a blasphemous lie. I said, “She just looked senile.” I appear on numerous radio talk shows and television stations around the state. I am getting up in age and sometimes I do not remember everything I say. I obviously have become quite uninhibited in my observations and ramblings. 

  Walt Maddox has been doing his best to coax Ivey’s folks into letting her debate. Folks, you can bet your bottom dollar that Kay Ivey ain’t going to debate Walt Maddox. My observation is that she cannot debate. I do not believe that she has the stamina to physically stand up for an hour or two, much less answer questions. It would be political suicide for her handlers to put her in that trap. She would become befuddled and anxious. She would be prone to putting on a show worse than Big Jim Folsom’s appearance on TV in 1962. It would be a good show.

  All Ivey has to do is run out the clock. She needs to continue to say nothing and do nothing. A Republican governor who looks elderly and has done nothing wrong ethically, and who is enjoying the fruits of a great national recovery, will beat a young, energetic, highly qualified candidate who is cognizant and well-versed on the issues every day of the week and twice on Sunday in Alabama politics. Just the appearance on a debate stage would be dramatic. 

  Alabamians do not care about a gubernatorial debate, or for that matter, they do not care much about who is governor. What they do care about is college football and it starts next week. It will occupy Alabamians for the next three months. The governor’s race will slide under the radar screen.

  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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