By Steve Flowers
Inside the Statehouse
This political year of 2018 may very well be the Year of the Woman in Alabama politics. In Alabama’s 200 year history, only one woman has been elected governor. Lurleen Wallace won in 1966. Only two women have served as governor, Governor Lurleen and our current governor, Kay Ivey. It may be a historic year.
Sue Bell Cobb, the former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice, and the first woman to hold that position, is hoping to be able to be the Democratic standard-bearer. She was elected Chief Justice in 2006, in a very expensive, high profiled battle with Republican Drayton Nabors. She had been a District Court Judge in her native Conecuh County for a long time before running statewide. She was elected to a six year term as Chief Justice in 2006, but quit after four years, inexplicably.
Cobb, 61, is predicting that it will be an all female gubernatorial showdown. She believes that she will be the Democratic nominee and that Governor Kay Ivey will carry the Republican banner into battle. She says, “That’s never happened and my prediction is that is what it will exactly be.”
However, first things first. Judge Cobb has to win the Democratic nomination. She is not the favorite in that primary. Tuscaloosa mayor, Walt Maddox, is the early favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
Most political insiders suggest that Maddox is expected to get the overwhelming support of African American voters. The black vote makes up the bulk and majority of Democratic Primary voters in the state. This is no longer a monolithic vote. However, it tends to gravitate to one candidate in a primary. The few white voters who participate in the Democratic primary are young and they can more readily identify with Maddox who is 45.
In addition, there is some disillusionment among Democratic voters that Cobb quit her term midway as Chief Justice and allowed Republican Governor Robert Bentley to appoint a replacement. He, of course, appointed a Republican. She was the only Democrat on the Supreme Court. Roy Moore won the seat of Chief Justice in 2012.
Other Democratic partisans were dismayed that Cobb said she supported Donald Trump’s selection of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. It may be perceived that her day has passed.
Kay Ivey appeared to be headed for the house and her day may have passed when out of the blue Bentley resigns and she is plucked out of the obscurity of the Lt. Governor’s office and thrust into the governorship. She seems like a grandmother who sticks to her knitting and steadies the Ship of State, which has gone through stormy waters the past four years. Kay Ivey may indeed make it to the dance as the Republican nominee in November. She is in the catbird’s seat and favored to win the GOP Primary.
However, she created a couple of stumbling blocks during the 2017 Senate election year that may thwart her reelection. Some GOP establishment stalwarts say that her changing the Senate election from 2018 to 2017 threw Luther Strange, their candidate, under the bus and gave the nomination to Roy Moore, which led to losing the seat to a Democrat. Her move also cost the state’s beleaguered General Fund $10 to $15 million. Some suburban women became disenchanted with her with she said she had no reason to not believe the women who accused Roy Moore of assaulting them as teenagers, yet she was still going to vote for him because he was a Republican. These two actions are only political stumbling blocks, not roadblocks.
Therefore, what I see as a possibility is not an all female race for governor, but a possible triumvirate of females being sworn into the top three constitutional offices next January. You could see Kay Ivey sworn into the Governor’s office, Twinkle Cavanaugh sworn in as Lt. Governor, and Alice Martin sworn in as Attorney General. All three are Republicans.
The Republican nominee goes into the general election with a 60/40 probability of winning. Currently, Kay Ivey is the favorite in the governor’s race. Twinkle is the favorite in the Lt. Governor’s race. Alice Martin or Troy King is favored in the Attorney General’s race.
If you made me bet right now, I would bet that Alabama would at least have a governor and Lt. Governor that are women. That may be the story of the year in Alabama politics in 2018.
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.