By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Washington powerbrokers are trying to dictate to the people of Alabama who will be their next representative in the US Senate. The elite’s choice is Luther Strange who was appointed to fill the seat by disgraced former Governor Robert Bentley.
NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin was recently reported as having said, “We have made it very clear from the beginning that Sen. Luther Strange would be treated as an incumbent. It has also been a clear policy that we will not use vendors who work against our incumbents.”
According to its website, “The NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee) is the only national organization solely devoted to strengthening the Republican Senate Majority and electing Republicans to the United States Senate. We provide invaluable support and assistance to current and prospective Republican U.S. Senate candidates in the areas of budget planning, election law compliance, fundraising, communications tools and messaging, research and strategy.
However, rather than strengthening the Republican Senate Majority through the constitutional election process, the NRSC is threatening any political consultant who dares work for any candidate opposing Strange in the State’s Republican Primary.
“There is real fear because any shop that wants GOP business knows the NRSC can mess with you, big time” said a DC insider who works in the industry and asked that his comments be quoted anonymously.
Alabama voter’s have seen this type of intimidation before when former Speaker and convicted Speaker Mike Hubbard, aided by former Gov. Bob Riley and Billy Canary, CEO of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) ran the State with iron fist.
Frances Taylor, Chair of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW) said, “This is a bridge too far. It appears that the political machine in DC didn’t get the message from the last election.” Taylor who is a fierce defender of conservative values in the state also had some advice for Strange. “I believe the right thing for Luther Strange to do is to disavow these types of intimidation tactics. We can think for ourselves and it doesn’t behoove him to encourage or remain silent on veiled threats.”
Alabama Republican Party Treasurer David Wheeler agrees that threatening to boycott consultants who work for any candidate than Strange is outrageous. Wheeler, a staunch conservative, says he wonders if Strange will self-destruct using such tactics.
Former State Senator, political historian and widely published columnist, Steve Flowers looks to the past to predict the future, “The threat is coming from those who arrogantly run the Senate without the slightest understanding of our State’s history,” Flowers said. “This plays right into the hands of former Chief Justice Roy Moore who probably was not going to use the elite Beltway pros anyway.” Moore announced his candidacy in late April.
Flowers recalls how Gov. George Wallace would rally Alabama voters with his phrase, “Let’s send them a message.”
“Roy Moore can use the same adage to fire up the people to send Big Luther back to the Mountain Brook Country Club,” said Flowers.
Dr. Stan Cooke, a member of the Republican Executive Committee, see this as similar to the dark money groups that placed Rebecca Caldwell Mason in the Capitol. Mason is alleged to have been Bentley’s lover who was seen as running State government under Bentley.
Another former Republican State Senator Perry Hooper, Jr., who is exploring the possibly running for the US Senate against Strange said, “The Arrogance of the Washington elites telling all Republican consultants to back off helping any other candidate but Luther, is the very reason we need term limits to drain the swamp of the Washington Establishment Elite.”
ALGOP Chair Terry Lathan took a more low key tone when asked to address the question on whether Washington power elites should interfere in Alabama’s US Senate race. “NRSC is an independent DC PAC. ALGOP has no affiliation with this independent group or any others. The NRSC was created to raise funds for GOP Senate incumbents,” she said. “In fact, it would be extraordinary if outside groups did not help the incumbent as well as groups who support the challenging candidates. This is not unusual at all.”
Gov. Kay Ivey resisted Senate leader Republican Mitch McConnell’s request to not call a Special Election for the seat vacated by Senator Jeff Session. Ivey’s stand against the wishes of Washington elites drew overwhelming praise for her tough stand on the law.
Lathan noted, “Alabama folks value their independence. If it is perceived that people from afar are inserting themselves in our elections, regardless of the candidate, that may be reflected in the voting booth.”