INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
by Steve Flowers
This week we will continue counting down and handicapping the prospective horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. We handicapped the following horses in descending order last week, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (18), Supreme Court Justice Jim Main (17), Sen. Greg Reed (16), Sen. Arthur Orr (15) and Mayor Vaughn Stewart (14).
This week we begin with horse Number 13, a spot which is held by a mayor of a major city. Interestingly, four of the eighteen horses in the 2018 Alabama Derby are mayors.
The Number 13 horse, Mayor Walt Maddox, is the young popular Mayor of Tuscaloosa. The Druid City has become the political hot bed and launching pad for statewide office. It is home to Sen. Richard Shelby and Gov. Robert Bentley. Some believe that Maddox wants to follow Bentley as governor.
The 46 year old mayor has done an exemplary job in his tenure. He handled the devastating 2011 tornadoes with aplomb and has seen his city grow and flourish. As mayor he has had the luxury of not declaring his party allegiance but most people suspect that he is a Democrat and you cannot be elected statewide as a Democrat in Alabama.
The Number 12 horse is Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. Unlike Maddox, Mayor Stimpson is a lifetime Republican. He is an old Mobile society silk stocking Republican. He is the scion of a Mobile business and is a successful businessman. Several years ago he used his wealth and civic experience to become Mayor of Mobile. I would have ranked Stimpson higher than Number 12, but I do not think he has any interest in running statewide. He likes being Mayor of Mobile. He loves his city, enjoys his grandchildren and social life. He is in his mid-60’s and probably does not want to spend his golden years traveling from Mobile to Huntsville.
While we are talking about the Gulf Coast, let’s handicap the 2010 runner up in the governor’s race, Bradley Byrne. Most folks thought that Byrne would win that race. Robert Bentley came from out of nowhere to beat Byrne. Since that time, Jo Bonner left Congress and Byrne parlayed his name recognition into capturing the Mobile/Baldwin congressional seat.
Byrne has taken to Congress like a duck to water. I have never seen a person hit the ground running in Washington any quicker than the former State Senator and Junior College Chancellor. He is doing a good job and appears to love Congress. Although I have Byrne ranked as the Number 11 horse, I do not see him leaving his U.S. House seat to enter a crowded statewide fray.
Our Number 10 horse is the only female candidate in the Derby. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey has been elected four times statewide, twice for State Treasurer and twice for Lt. Governor. Some prognosticators are writing her off as over the hill. However, they are overlooking the fact that her having been elected four times statewide gives her some pretty good name identification that she could parlay into another statewide victory.
However, running for governor is an arduous challenge. I am not sure she has the fire in her belly for that venture. She would be a shoe in for reelection as Lt. Governor, but is prohibited constitutionally from seeking a third term. It would be interesting if she returned to her old job as State Treasurer.
The Number 9 horse is President Pro Tem of the State Senate, Del Marsh of Anniston. Marsh has emerged as a statesman as leader of the Senate. He has led as a consensus building conciliator. He exhibits political astuteness even though he is a businessman. He is handsome and articulate. As President Pro Tem, he can raise money but does not have to. He has his own money. Marsh started and sold a successful manufacturing business in Calhoun County, which makes him financially independent. He could be a player in the 2018 Derby.
The Number 8 horse is State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. He has done an outstanding job as Agriculture Commissioner. With agriculture still being our number one industry, it is one of the most important constitutional offices. John was a legislator and Conservation Director prior to being elected statewide in 2010. In his 2014 reelection campaign he received the highest percentage vote of any candidate on the ballot. He is getting a lot of genuine encouragement statewide to run for governor. He is a heck of a nice guy and hails from Baldwin County, which is an important Republican primary county. However, he appears reluctant to make the race. This may stem from the fact that he will be 77 in 2018.
We will count down the top seven horses next week.
See you next week.
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 www.steveflowers.us.