Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Some observations

  Allow me to share some observations from the year thus far. First of all, I have never seen anything like the coronavirus shutdown of the country. Hopefully, it is a once in a lifetime disaster. 

  Gov. Kay Ivey remains popular. Even though some people consider the defeat of Amendment One a personal rejection, it was not. Alabamians just like to vote to elect their political, and in this case, education leaders.

  The passage of Amendment One would have caused Alabamians to give up their right to vote on the state school board and allowed the governor to appoint them instead. When I was queried on whether Amendment One would pass, I quickly told them it would lose 60% to 40%. I was wrong. It took more of a shellacking than that. It failed by 75% to 25%.  Folks, that sends a message. You may not even know who serves on the school board, but Alabamians surely want to vote for them rather than have those members be appointed.

  Governor Ivey’s people do a good job of looking after her and protecting her time. She is all business and is very scheduled. She and her staff treat the office with a level of dignity I have not seen in decades. She is focused on the job at hand and an audience with her must be for a purpose, even for legislators. Her staff gets her in and out and protects her time and health. She has been especially isolated since the coronavirus epidemic. She will more than likely not run for a second term in 2022.  

  Waiting in the wings to run is Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth. He just turned 39 and will be in the race for the brass ring in 2022. If being an outstanding family man is a prerequisite, he will be a contender. He has a genuinely sweet and pretty wife named Kendall. They have fraternal twin boys, Hunter and Hays, who are 10, and a little 8-year-old girl named Addie. I met the boys the night of Governor Ivey's State of the State Address. Ainsworth brought them over to where I was standing and wanted us to meet. The little boys were the most polished ten-year-olds I have ever met. They very politely, yet confidently looked me in the eye and shook my hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Flowers.” They exuded good manners.  

  Governor Ivey only attends the most important events and she does not lollygag around conversing afterward. Therefore, it was apparent when she came to Birmingham earlier this year to the grand opening of Dr. Swaid Swaid’s state-of-the-art medical facility that Swaid is special.

  Dr. Swaid has been a friend and supporter of almost every governor going back to George Wallace. Governor Wallace came to UAB to see Swaid and would not only want the famed physician to treat him for his numerous afflictions and ailments but also enjoyed visiting with the jovial Galilean doctor. Swaid has many great stories from his and the governor’s visits and friendship.

  Swaid’s best friend is Alabama state Senator Jabo Waggoner. They are really like brothers rather than just best friends.  Waggoner is the longest-serving member in the history of the Alabama Legislature. He chairs the Senate Rules Committee.

  Waggoner and Swaid and their families spend almost every weekend together, either at their homes in Vestavia or Smith Lake. However, they make it to their church, Homewood Church of Christ, almost every Sunday. Waggoner and his beautiful wife, Marilyn, have attended the church for 45 years. Swaid has attended for 40 years. Waggoner and Swaid are leaders in this mega-church.

  Recently, Waggoner and Marilyn and Swaid and his lovely wife, Christy, invited me to join them for their church service and lunch afterward. It was an enjoyable visit. The most rewarding part was meeting Swaid and Christy’s two sons, Christian and Cason. They are absolutely the most polite and quality young men I have met. 

  Swaid built his state-of-the-art surgery hospital on well-traveled, easily accessible Highway 31 in Vestavia. He chose the location because he knew from his work over the years that people from all over the state, especially rural areas, come to Birmingham for major surgery. Most of these patients are older and are not familiar with Birmingham traffic, especially with maneuvering the labyrinth around UAB. It will make it much easier to see the world-renowned doctors in Swaid’s group.  

  If Swaid’s boys are an example of the next generation, our state may be in better hands than we think.

  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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