By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday was not a good day for Luther Strange.
Alabama’s appointed US Senator found out by way of a phone call from Gov. Kay Ivey that she was reversing course and calling a Special Election to be held later this year for the seat Strange currently holds.
Strange, Alabama’s former Attorney General, is the only announced candidate for that seat. And he was banking on staying in it until Nov. 2018, when, if his plan worked, he would be officially elected to that seat.
In a normal situation, that wouldn’t have been a bad plan.
Nearly two years of watching a guy do a job and getting used to seeing him in that role leaves an impression on the average voter. Especially if Strange had managed to avoid conflict, earn some praise from his colleagues, maybe do a good thing or two for the hometown folks.
He’d be a sure bet come election time.
But this isn’t the usual situation. And when measured against current events and the current climate, Tuesday’s decision by Ivey cements Strange’s move to accept the appointment from former Gov. Robert Bentley as the dumbest, most shortsighted political move in recent history.
Because make no mistake about it, Luther Strange was more likely than not going to be Alabama’s senator come 2018.
Sure, there were going to be challenges. Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was likely the biggest challenger.
But Strange had the name recognition, the great advantage of having no voting record on controversial bills and the backing of the Poarch Creek Indians.
That’s the trifecta: Name, record, money.
All he had to do was nothing.
Seriously. He didn’t have to convict Robert Bentley of anything. He didn’t have to clean up Alabama’s government corruption. He didn’t have to arrest anyone or make any tough decisions.
All he had to do was make sure his office was open 8 to 4:30 most days and that someone kept sending out press releases about removing gun bans at businesses.
Or, if he wanted to ensure his victory, he could have moved hard against Bentley. He could have pushed for criminal charges. He could have made the governor the top target in his corruption probe.
Public sentiment towards Bentley was so negative and so widespread, even if Strange didn’t make charges stick, the voting public would have loved him. Strange could’ve billed himself as some sort of public corruption sheriff – the guy who takes ethics laws seriously. The guy watching out for the public’s dollars.
Had he chosen either path, Strange could’ve started picking out furniture for his DC office immediately.
But instead, Luther Strange – a man who has spent a lifetime in politics – made the one move he absolutely couldn’t make.
He made a deal with Bentley.
Oh, we all know it’s true.
I’m sick of the idiotic pretending by grown men and women, acting as if they’re not sure whether Strange made a deal. The man was chasing Bentley hard one month – interviewed his entire security detail and others around him – and then all but completely bailed on the investigation from November to February. And then, to make sure we all knew he made a deal, Strange tried to fool everyone into believing that there really wasn’t a Bentley investigation, apparently forgetting that we’d be able to figure out very quickly that he was lying.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.
Proof: Jim Zeigler figured it out.
Zeigler, who’s demonstrated a remarkable proficiency for cutting through the nuance and fluff that often encapsulates ethics in this state, said Tuesday that Strange “obstructed” the investigation into Bentley.
That’s a good word for what Strange did – both to Bentley and to his own chances of holding onto that Senate seat. The Senate seat he coveted so much that he was blinded by it.
Strange so wanted out of the AG’s office and into that DC Senate office that he picked the one path he couldn’t.
And the result will very likely be Strange walking that path, side by side with Robert Bentley, right into political obscurity.