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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Breaking down the governor’s race

Steve Flowers

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When talk turns to politics in Alabama, it usually leads to the Governor’s race. In Alabama politics, the Governor’s office is the Brass Ring. It is talked about more than anything else around coffee clubs and kitchen tables from Sand Mountain to the Wiregrass. It is comparable to college football being the king of all sports in Alabama.

This infatuation with the Governor’s office is borne out in voting history. In most states the Presidential race sees the largest voter turnout, but that is not the case in Alabama where we have historically voted more heavily in gubernatorial years. Governor race years also have most of the important local offices up for grabs. “All politics is local.”

Kay Ivey enters the race as the favorite. She is the quasi incumbent having taken over the ship of state this time last year from beleaguered and tarnished Governor Dr. Robert Bentley. She probably would have gone to the house with her dog Bear with the plaudits of having served two terms as State Treasurer and two terms as Lt. Governor, which is not a bad legacy. However, now she can add Governor to her epitaph.

Kay has been around Alabama politics for quite a while. She has been thought of as vibrant over the years.  However, recently her demeanor and appearance belies the fact that she is only 73. This premature aging becomes apparent when she gets out campaigning and speaking. This elderly resonance and cognizance will not detract from her being elected to a full term. However, if I were running her campaign, I would limit her appearances. They should keep her in the Governor’s office and use photos from a few years back and take credit for the upturn in the economy. Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep. A slip and fall could derail her train.

My first term in the Legislature was George Wallace’s last term as Governor and to say he was incoherent would be an understatement. He was on heavy doses of medication to alleviate the constant pain he had to endure from the bullet wounds from an assassination attempt while he was running for President in 1972. Therefore, Kay’s slowness does not deter her from being elected or from probably doing a better job than most governors we have had.

My observation over the past 50-years is that we really do not have to have a fulltime governor of Alabama.  Big Jim Folsom was drunk his entire second term, George Wallace was on pain pills his last term and did not know where he was, Fob James was totally disinterested in being governor his second term and went duck hunting the whole time. They put Don Siegelman and Guy Hunt in jail.  Poor ole Bentley fell in love at 72 like a little school boy and walked around with a glazed look in his eyes and sheepish grin, and lost all sense with reality. They kicked the poor old fellow to the curb. Kay came on board and seems to have steadied the ship of state.

Kay’s most daunting opponent is Huntsville mayor, Tommy Battle, who is actually responsible for the largest economic development announcement for the state in the past several years. The landing of the Toyota-Mazda plant in Huntsville several months ago was a real coup. Battle is 61 and has been Mayor of Huntsville for over 10 years. Some would argue that if he could do half of what he has done for Huntsville for the State of Alabama, he would be the best Governor Alabama has had in generations.

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Mayor Battle has raised a lot of money and will come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with a strong base of support. He may give Kay a run for her money.

Birmingham Evangelist, Scott Dawson, is hoping to garner the evangelical vote. He is running a spirited campaign and could be a factor.

State Senator Bill Hightower from Mobile is somewhat of an aloof fellow, who will probably not be a factor.

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Whoever wins the Republican nomination will be favored to win the race in November. The odds favor a Republican 57-to-43.

However, you have two formidable thoroughbreds vying for the Democratic nomination. Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox will fight it out for the nod in the June 5th Primary. There probably will not be a runoff. Either Cobb or Maddox will win outright depending on which way Alabama’s African American voters land. Most observers predict that Walt Maddox will prevail. He is 45 and has been Mayor of Tuscaloosa for 10 years.

Being mayor of a major city is probably the best training ground for governor.

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.

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Elections

Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies

Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

Josh Moon

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C. 

Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.  

But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump. 

“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”

Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”

Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home. 

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“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat. 

“I rest my case.”

You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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Opinion | Counting on good Neighbors

Even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of District 4 need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Joey Kennedy

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Congressional candidate Rick Neighbors at a campaign stop. (VIA NEIGHBORS CAMPAIGN)

There’s a lot of reasons we know it’s an election year — political ads on television, presidential debates, Donald Trump super-spreader campaign rallies.

Oh, and Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt is back in his congressional district. Every couple years, Aderholt shows up. So he can “appear” connected to Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.

The 4th Congressional District starts just north of Birmingham and stretches horizontally across the state. The district includes Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, Marshall, Walker and Winston counties as well as parts of Blount, Cherokee, Jackson and Tuscaloosa counties.

Aderholt pops in for a few campaign events, and then pops out to his real residence in suburban Washington D.C. He’s no more an Alabamian than Florida’s Tommy Tuberville.

Aderholt does have opposition this year in Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors, a Vietnam veteran who truly helps his neighbors. Early in the pandemic, Neighbors was passing out masks door-to-door in the district. He’s continued to help his neighbors throughout the pandemic with anything he can do.

“Being in Congress means being here and working with the people,” Neighbors says on his website. “In 24 years, Rob Aderholt has left us behind to focus on his radical agenda and gotten rich in Congress.”

That’s from a campaign website, but it’s absolutely true. Aderholt is still talking about expanding broadband access in his rural district. It’s one of the few issues he talks about every two years, for 24 years, without ever getting anything done.

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Seriously. Name something Aderholt has done for his district or Alabama in the more than two decades he’s been in Congress. I won’t hold my breath.

And if you don’t think Neighbors’s campaign isn’t a little worrisome for Aderholt supporters, why are all the Neighbors signs disappearing from his district?

Adults, acting like sixth-graders, love to pull up political signs. Even in my comfortably Democratic neighborhood, some Doug Jones for Senate signs disappear. And, oddly in my neighborhood, I saw an actual Tommy Tuberville sign that had been pulled down in front of some misplaced person’s yard. It happens on both sides.

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But in the 4th Congressional District, and especially in the Cullman County area, it’s hard for Neighbors and his staff to keep signs in place.

“Cullman has come down, and we have had to replace almost all our signs in Winston County,” said Neighbors’s campaign manager Lisa Ward. As for Winston County, Ward said, “we were told those are gone again.”

Can anybody be more junior high?

“We’ve seen places where our sign was, and it’s been replaced by Aderholt signs,” Ward said. “When we put signs out, we leave his and put ours next to his. We joke and say everyone needs friendly neighbors around.”

The Neighbors campaign does have the right spirit. They just work to replace the signs that disappear. But it is aggravating, to say the least.

“Someone told us that Aderholt is really worried if people find out he has an opponent or doesn’t live here he could struggle,” said Ward. “That’s why he’s not mentioning (Neighbors’s) campaign. And why we think they’re taking his signs down. So people don’t know. It’s really about people not getting a chance to know they have a choice. And there is no time to hear who he is.”

Well, here’s who he is: Neighbors served three tours in Vietnam during that war, enlisting when he was 17 years old. After the service, he got a college degree, then spent 35 years in the apparel business in North Alabama.

Neighbors and his wife, Judy, have three children, and Neighbors recently earned an MBA from the University of North Alabama.

Neighbors would be a breath of fresh air for Alabama in Washington. He won’t live there. He’ll be grounded in the 4th Congressional District.

If Aderholt wins, we won’t see him again until 2022. Twenty-four years in Congress is plenty of time to get something done. But with Aderholt, there’s not much to show for all that time.

And even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of the 4th District need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Voter suppression is the only hope for Republicans

Their tactic today is the same tactic of yesterday. Fight democracy.

Josh Moon

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A Black Voters Matter sign (VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The writing is on the wall for Republicans, and it has been for some time now. Across the nation, year after year, they see the numbers steadily move away from them. They already represent tens of millions fewer Americans in Congress, and if recent polling is even close to accurate, they are on the verge of a bloodbath in less than two weeks that could tip the power to Democrats for generations to come. 

Facing such a bleak reality, it might be reasonable forjm to the party platform, discouraging the archaic fights over thinly-veiled racism and bigotry. To stop the never-ending coddling of racists and America’s worst humans. 

But no, that is not their tactic. Their tactic today is the same tactic of yesterday. 

Fight democracy. 

Because the enemy that Republicans can beat is not the better ideas, better leadership, better governance or better humanity of today’s Democratic Party, it is access to the voting booth. 

And they are fighting like hell. 

Gone are the slick talking points and the insistence that every shady hurdle placed between a voter and a ballot is a matter of fraud prevention. Now, they’re not even hiding what they’re doing, nor offering half-baked excuses for doing it. 

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Whether it be limiting polling locations or providing fewer voting machines to predominantly minority neighborhoods or removing polling locations from college campuses or allowing for only one ballot drop-off location or faking drop-off locations, there is an all-out, last-ditch, shameless, desperate attempt to stave off the coming defeat by Republicans. 

And there is no bottom to what they will pull. 

As is usually the case, it was in Alabama where they tested just how low they’re willing to sink. In Alabama, in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 Americans and nearly 3,000 Alabamians, they fought everything.

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Even when they knew that doing so would likely — very likely — cost voters their lives. 

And they had a Republican-packed U.S. Supreme Court to go along with them. 

On Wednesday evening, that court ruled, 5-3, that Alabama officials could ban curbside voting, even though there’s no law in the state preventing it and several counties have used it successfully in the past. 

Curbside voting is utilized to aid people with disabilities. In the time of COVID, it was going to be used by several counties in Alabama to make it easier for the most at-risk individuals to safely cast a ballot. They would pull up to the curb, sign the poll book without exiting their car, fill out a ballot, hand it to an official poll worker who feeds it into a voting machine, and, tah-dah, a safe vote has been cast. 

A number of at-risk Alabamians filed a lawsuit against the state saying the ban on curbside voting, coupled with the requirements for absentee voting in Alabama — which state officials also went to court to keep in place — would very much force them to risk their lives in order to cast a ballot. 

It will come as no surprise to you that the majority of those who planned to utilize curbside voting, it was projected, were Black Alabamians. COVID-19 has proven to be particularly lethal for Blacks, and the counties of Jefferson and Montgomery — both with high minority populations — had already planned to implement curbside voting. 

Secretary of State John Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall smelled something fishy, which is oddly common among white Republicans in Alabama whenever large numbers of Black people are planning to vote.

But don’t worry, if you were expecting their reasoning for opposing curbside voting to be either absurd or callous.  

In a brief filed in the case, Merrill argued that “some level of risk is inherent in life and in voting.” Merrill also went into a lengthy speculation on how curbside voting could possibly be conducted safely and securely in these counties. 

Again, curbside voting has been done in Alabama numerous times. And figuring out the logistics certainly would have taken less time and money than fighting this ridiculous case all the way to the Supreme Court. 

But, again, fairness, security and safety weren’t the objective. 

Suppression was. 

Because right now, that’s the only hope Republicans have left.

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Opinion | Former Sen. Brewbaker supports Montgomery tax referendum 

If we want Montgomery to change for the better, we are all going to have to start living in our community rather than off of it.

Dick L. Brewbaker

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(STOCK PHOTO)

I am in full support of the property tax referendum on the ballot this November. That may surprise some people because I have been critical of the performance of the Montgomery County Public School System in the past.

Until recently, student performance has generally been poor, financial management has been historically problematic, and there have been real and persistent problems with transparency. New Board leadership has worked hard to address these issues in a real way, but there is still work to be done.

However, whether we are talking about cars or public education, there is such a thing as trying to buy too cheap. Montgomery has been paying the legal minimum in property tax support for decades. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone that our schools’ quality reflects our financial commitment to them.

Yes, it’s true that more money isn’t always the answer, but it’s also true that money is part of the answer. Sometimes the bare minimum isn’t enough, and this is one of those times.

Most people who vote on this referendum will not have children currently attending MPS. If you are one of those people, vote yes anyway.

Our public school population is declining because many young couples with children are leaving our city because they know their children can get a better education elsewhere.

This loss of young parents will eventually kill this city. We have got to turn the schools around before Montgomery’s tax base is eroded beyond repair. Whether you have kids in the system or not, if you care about your local tax burden or the value of your property, it’s time to vote ‘yes.’

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Need another reason to vote yes? Ok, here’s one:  Montgomery will eventually lose both our USAF bases if we don’t show the Air Force we are serious about improving our failing schools. Already less than half of the airmen stationed in Montgomery bring their families with them.

Many military families view MPS as so low quality that they won’t subject their children to them. If we don’t fix our schools, sooner or later we will lose Maxwell and Gunter. If you don’t believe that would be an economic nightmare for our city, ask around.

At the end of the day, passing this referendum is not only a vote to help children succeed, but also a vote to save the city in which we all live. It’s ok to be hopeful, it’s ok to be optimistic even about the future of Montgomery and its schools.

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If we want Montgomery to change for the better, we are all going to have to start living in our community rather than off of it.

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