By Thomas J. Scovill
Luther Strange is Alabama’s erstwhile Attorney General and new US Senator. He seems to like his job and says he wants to compete in the August special Republican primary so he can keep it.
Strange got the job in February after nearly two months of lobbying now disgraced former Governor Bentley who appointed him to fill the vacancy created by Jeff Sessions’ resignation from the Senate to join President Trump’s cabinet. The game of musical chairs was quickly finished when Bentley appointed Steve Marshall to succeed Strange as attorney general.
The Strange appointment was alarming because Attorney General Strange knew his office was investigating the criminal activity of Governor Bentley as were the House Judiciary Committee and the Alabama Ethics Commission. We know Strange was investigating Bentley because he said so in a November letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, a letter requesting impeachment proceedings be delayed. Criminal activity was confirmed in April when Bentley pled guilty to criminal charges and resigned.
Strange would have us believe he saw no conflict of interest in seeking and accepting a prized and enriching appointment from the man he was investigating. In contrast, as soon as his successor was appointed, new Attorney General Marshall recused himself from the Bentley investigation. Two months later Bentley was gone, something which could have come before Christmas had Strange focused on being Attorney General rather than marketing himself and raising the first $300,000 for his Senate campaign.
In the meantime, Strange’s new friends in the US Senate seem to see no hint of a problem and are solidly behind him for the Special Primary Election. In fact, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell lobbied Governor Ivey to ignore Alabama law and not advance the special primary that Bentley had impermissibly scheduled for November 2018, timing which would leverage the advantage of incumbency. And the National Republican Senate Campaign has warned political operators to shun Strange’s election competitors, incumbent protection being a Republican establishment priority more important than draining swamps, Senator Wicker (R-MS) sure to agree.
Getting on the Republican special primary ballot is not an automated process. Candidates have to ask the Alabama GOP and pay a filing fee. This gives the Republican Steering Committee the opportunity to consider the requests. These requests are denied from time to time as would be nominee for Limestone County DA Kristie Valls discovered in 2016.
Some will say earnestly that voters should decide the Republican nomination. Ordinarily, I would agree, but occasionally extraordinary circumstances demand that Party leaders use the authority given them by the people to deny ballot access to a person whose candidacy would be exceptionally harmful to the people and the Party alike.
If Republican leaders want the Party to be thoroughly identified by candidates who place moral, legal, and good government considerations above their personal interests, Party leaders will have to act because Luther Strange has infamously failed to adhere to this principle and it is most unlikely that a justice process which took a year to remove a scofflaw governor from office will do anything to help resolve this problem before the candidate certification deadline of May 25.
By egregiously advancing his private interests over greater responsibilities, Luther Strange has shown he is loyal only to himself. He cannot be considered a loyal Republican. He should not enjoy the privilege of being on a Republican ballot. If he is put on the primary ballot, I fear the competition for the Republican nomination will become an auction with Senator Strange having the advantage of ill-gotten incumbency. Alabama Republican leaders have the responsibility to keep this from happening.
The Republican Party embraced Speaker Mike Hubbard and Governor Robert Bentley until they were quite over-ripe. Let’s not try for a hat trick.
Thomas J. Scovill, is retired military and republican leader living in Madison County 256-509-4522; [email protected]