Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - More than an election going on in Alabama politics

  Our gubernatorial election year politics ended yesterday. However, there have been other political maneuverings and developments going on behind the scenes that could ultimately have more long-term ramifications in the Heart of Dixie.

  The selection of a new Business Council of Alabama leader is imminent and will probably occur in the next few days. In addition to this, the jockeying and wrangling for the U.S. Senate seat in 2020 have begun.

  Alabama Power President Mark Crosswhite prudently cleaned house at the BCA earlier this year. He organized a team of "cardinals" to interview and select a new leader. Much like the vetting process for a new Pope, the cardinals meet in total secrecy and send out smoke signals from the Vatican that they have not yet reached a decision. However, there are smoke signals that a new leader of the BCA is about to be named. The process has been very private with no leaks.

  This entire year-long process of removing Billy Canary, who had reigned for 12 years, and selecting a new CEO, has been a battle of business titans in the state. It has been a battle waged behind an iron curtain.

  The role of Mark Crosswhite in this change has been clear.  He has emerged as the clear leader of the Alabama Business Community.

  The original BCA was forged under the leadership of former Alabama Power president Elmer Harris several decades ago. It had become a toothless tiger in recent years through poor leadership.

  Crosswhite has picked the organization out of the junk pile and given it new life. Chances for a new beginning happen very few times. Like in politics, after the election, you must govern. My belief is that with a new leader and a fresh start, the Business Council of Alabama will emerge bigger and better than ever.

  You can rest assured that the business community of Alabama, and indeed the nation, will be looking forward to defeating Doug Jones in 2020. It is a glaring anomaly that one of the most conservative Republican states in America would have an ultra-liberal, leftwinger in one of our U.S. Senate seats. In last year’s Special Election against Roy Moore, Jones received $22 million from the most liberal zip codes and enclaves in America, especially from the left coast of California and San Francisco. It was the only show bill in town, and Roy Moore energized liberal money from throughout the country. Thus, the two truisms, “more people vote against someone than for someone,” and “money is the mother’s milk of politics,” combined to create Alabama’s accidental anomaly, Senator Doug Jones. 

  The book on Jones is that he will not be elected to a full term in 2020. It is a presidential election year, and Alabama will vote for the Republican nominee, probably Donald Trump, overwhelmingly. This is a Republican Senate seat and it will be won by a Republican. 

  As soon as Jones was sworn in, the race to be the Republican nominee began. The obvious candidates are one, if not all, of our six Republican members of Congress. Speculation abounded that the three best potential congressional horses would be Robert Aderholt, Bradley Byrne, and Mo Brooks.

  The horse that has emerged as the favorite is Bradley Byrne. He has started early and has staked out the inside track. He has crisscrossed the state, building an organization and is collecting and tying up the Washington establishment money.

  Aderholt will probably opt to stay in the House. He has over 20 years of seniority and is in line to chair the Appropriations Committee. Congressman Mike Rogers is moving up in seniority and is on Armed Services Committee. Mo Brooks is expected to defer to Byrne in 2020 and look to run for Senator Shelby’s seat in 2022 should Shelby choose to retire.

  This stealth campaign for the 2020 Senate race has been going on this entire gubernatorial year. Byrne is indeed laying his stakes. There is a maxim in life and politics: “The early bird gets the worm.”

  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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