By Steve Flowers
Inside the Statehouse
As I mentioned last week, we will have a plethora of political contests to follow next year, and the field is beginning to formulate.
The governor’s race is always the marquee event. However, the most important races will be for the 35 State Senate and 105 House of Representatives seats. These legislative races will be where most of the special interest money will gravitate.
There will be an unprecedented number of state senators not running for reelection. However, the nucleus and bulk of the State Senate leadership is planning to return. Veteran leaders Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Del Marsh, R-Anniston, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, Arthur Orr, R- Decatur, Cam Ward, R-Shelby, and Jim McClendon, R-St. Clair, will all run for reelection. Along with rising stars, Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, Clay Schofield, R-Marshall, Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, Shay Shelnut, R-Trussville, Slade Blackwell, R-Jefferson, as well as, Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, and Tom Whatley, R-Auburn.
This cadre of Republican leadership returning portends that the State Senate will be where the power will be concentrated when the next quadrennium begins in Montgomery.
The same scenario will occur in the House. There will also be a good deal of turnover in the lower chamber. However, the nucleus of leadership will return, and all will more than likely stay in their leadership positions. The top five leaders will remain intact. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, as speaker, Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, as pro tem, Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, will continue as chairman of the Education Ways and Means Committee and Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, will be chairman of Ways and Means General Fund Committee. Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, will steer the Rules Committee.
One center of special interest power that will diminish significantly is the once vaunted Business Council of Alabama, unless they replace Bill Canary, their much beleaguered CEO. It has been rumored for over a year that he will be replaced.
In the past few months, the omnipotent power in Alabama politics, Alabama Power, made it perfectly clear that either Canary goes or the company would have to reconsider its participation. The company’s last minute withdrawal from the annual BCA Governmental Affairs Conference was a clear message. But just to make sure the message was received, Alabama Power President Mark Crosswhite met with Canary in a gentlemanly fashion. He summoned Canary to the company’s downtown Birmingham headquarters and politely explained to the New Yorker that BCA’s failures and lack of leadership are a major concern to the company. Crosswhite then met with some key members of BCA’s board to make Alabama Power’s position clear.
Canary is telling his BCA bosses that the meeting with Crosswhite was a great success and everything was just a misunderstanding. But the only one who misunderstands, it seems, is Canary. Alabama Power was the integral factor in organizing the Business Council several decades ago. Their financial contributions to the BCA comprise over 25 percent of the group’s income.
In addition to the Power Company’s disenchantment with Canary, our senior senator, Richard Shelby, has made it clear to BCA members that Canary is so out of favor with him that he is no longer welcome in his office and furthermore should not bother to call his office for an appointment.
Folks, what that means is that the BCA with Billy Canary on board has absolutely no power in Washington. All seven of our congressmen, and whoever our new senator is, pales in power to Shelby. Shelby is more powerful that all eight put together, and believe me, none of them want to offend him. He not only trumps them, he trumps Trump.
Canary is not only a pariah in Washington, he is a joke in Montgomery. Most folks thought he would be indicted with Mike Hubbard. His credibility has continued to diminish since that time. His cavalier, sinister, overbearing and boorish New York behavior has made him a caricature.
In private conversations with most Republican and Democratic legislators, they will snicker and say if the BCA board is stupid enough to allow Canary to stay, we will take their money during the 2018 election cycle and then ignore him for four years just like Shelby.
The BCA with Canary is a dead-man walking. They are a powerless joke. If a business were smart they would give their contributions directly to the candidates, rather than through a defunct organization led by a has-been. You can bet your bottom dollar that is what ALFA and the Alabama Power Company will be doing.
Kay Ivey has made it official that she is a candidate for governor. She enters the race as the clear favorite.
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.