By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Saturday, August 12, 2017, former State Representative and political columnist Steve Flowers (R) spoke to the Mid-Alabama Republican Club at the Vestavia Library. Flowers discussed the current political situation particularly the Tuesday special election primary. Flowers predicted that former State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and U.S. Senator Luther Strange would emerge as winners of the Republican Primary, though Strange is hurt by questions surrounding his appointment by then Governor Robert Bentley. Flowers predicted a Doug Jones victory in the Democratic Primary but called Jones, “the weakest possible candidate.”
Rep. Flowers said that victory on Tuesday was all about turnout. “Moore and Strange have more detractors than they have supporters. To win, you have got to get your people to the polls.”
Rep. Flowers said that in the last poll; Roy Moore has 30 percent of the vote and Luther Strange had 22 percent. US Representative Mo Brooks had 18 percent and Flowers predicted that it would likely finish the same way.
Flowers said “Moore has a hard core 30 percent. That 30 percent ain’t going anywhere.” In the first polls Moore was at 30 percent. He has not added to that but that group can not be swayed. They are old, they are in their 70s, and they vote. Voters in their twenties or thirties have work to go to, a commute, kids to pick up, and they can get tied up in their day and not vote. They won’t vote in a special election. Moore’s older voters will show up. If there is bad weather it helps Moore, because his voters: “They are coming whether it is Hell or high water.”
Flowers said that a third of Alabama’s Republican electorate is Evangelicals. “The Freedom Caucus, Fox news, fiscal conservatives are a third and the establishment is a third.”
Flowers said that “Luther Strange would be in good shape if not for that controversial appointment by Governor Bentley. That appointment is really holding him back.” Some establishment voters are put off by the appointment. “Had he not taken that appointment, I think he would be in good shape. That appointment is an albatross hanging around his neck.” When he took that he thought that the primary would be in 2018. That would have given the people time to have forgotten about the appointment. Strange did not expect a 2017 primary.
Rep. Flowers said that he talked with Strange before the appointment and Strange said then that he was not going to even interview with Bentley, but that, “Somebody talked him into talking with Bentley. I believe there is no collusion.”
Flowers said that both U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions want Strange in Washington. “Luther spent the first 20 years of his life in Washington. Luther is predictable, he is moderate.”
Flowers said that “Mo Brooks got $2 million worth of free publicity from the shooting. It helps in Alabama when you are at a Republican baseball game and, some Bernie Sanders socialist nut shoots at you. Brooks was coming around the corner and would have overtaken Strange”, but Luther has all the money from McConnell and his Washington contacts so was able to launch a negative ad campaign that shut down Brooks’ momentum. According to Luther’s Washington Pollsters Brooks has about 16 to 18 percent of the vote. “Brooks is down in Mobile and Baldwin counties. He should be back home in Huntsville and North Alabama trying to get out his vote.”
Flowers said “Pittman has got momentum. The business people in the State are for Pittman. There is a late movement for Pittman. I don’t think he will win but he is going to do better than you think.” Flowers predicted a 12 to 15 percent performance for State Senator Trip Pittman (R from Montrose).
Flowers said that Strange is underperforming in Mobile and Baldwin Counties and that none of the three major candidates are performing strong there. “Baldwin and Mobile Counties have a chip on their shoulders. They feel ostracized by the rest of the State. Huntsville, for that matter, resents being in Alabama. They think they belong more with California’s Silicon Valley or North Carolina’s research triangle.”
While Strange would benefit from a large turnout in Jefferson and Shelby counties, Flowers said, “I would not be surprised if Roy Moore carries Shelby County.” There are a lot of megachurches there and a strong Evangelical presence.
While Strange may make the runoff, Flowers was skeptical of his winning the nomination and said that he thought most of the Brooks voters would go to Roy Moore. Flowers said that Strange’s people are counting on a large turnout of people who did not vote in the primary coming to vote in the runoff in order to stop Moore.
One of the audience asked if Mitch McConnell’s interference would hurt Luther Strange. Flowers said that it might in a general election; but not in a Republican Primary. “Those of us who follow it do, but the average voter doesn’t know who he is. That has been overemphasized.”
Flowers said that any of the candidates will win in the general election. “Alabama is a one-party state. Doug Jones is the weakest possible candidate…..Barack Obama spoiled Black voters. They would prefer to vote for an African-American. Neither one of our candidates should have any trouble (in the general election).”
Whether Alabama elects Roy Moore, Luther Strange, or Mo Brooks, “Really makes no difference. All three of them are going to vote the same way on major Republican litmus tests.”
Flowers said, “I hate to say this because I am 65, but Brooks is 63, Strange is 64, and Moore is 70. Under the Senate’s seniority rules they aren’t going to live long enough to ever become powerful, like Richard Shelby.”
The Major Party Primaries are on Tuesday, August 15. Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 7:00 pm.