Once, an endorsement from the Business Council of Alabama was a clear indication of the frontrunner in a political race, but this changed dramatically during the June 5 primary with BCA losing several high profile races while squandering vast sums of money on losing candidates.
Embattled BCA CEO Billy Canary bet big but ended up with little more than winning incumbents who faced no challenge or a weak opponent who would have won with or without BCA’s backing. Other big-name races have BCA endorsed candidates in bare-knuckle runoffs with uncertain outcomes.
BCA made nearly $1.4 million in campaign contributions over the last six months, with over 20 percent going to the Attorney General’s battle. Sources close to BCA say Canary isn’t worried because Vice Chair of the Poarch Creek Indians Robbie McGhee is promising to keep gaming money flowing into the business organization’s account.
BCA put $260,000 behind Attorney General Steve Marshall, an appointee of disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley. Marshall will go head-to-head with former Attorney General Troy King in the Republican runoff on July 17. Several business leaders speaking on background say they are switching to King, expressing doubts about Marshall’s chances in July.
In the Republican Lt. Governor’s race, BCA favored PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh over State Rep. Will Ainsworth, but Ainsworth came on strong at the end, leading to a runoff.
Rick Pate, BCA’s handpicked candidate to run against State Senator Gerald Dial for Agriculture and Industry Commissioner, finds himself in a runoff with the well-known senator.
BCA also funded Gov. Kay Ivey appointee Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, who was rejected by Republican voters in favor of Associate Justice Tom Parker. The same was true for Terri Thomas who lost her bid for the Court of Civil Appeals to Chad Hanson. The once unstoppable business group also took another shellacking for the State Board of Education District 8.
Perhaps the two more embarrassing defeats of the night were in the down-ballot contest, where BCA worked to defeat incumbent State Rep.Tim Wadsworth who bested BCA funded Richard “Bull” Corry in House District 14. Another humiliating defeat was in Senate District 25, where newcomer Will Barfoot trounced Montgomery County Commissioner Ronda Walker. BCA flamed out in other hotly contested legislative battles.
With losses in nine legislative contests and nearly a dozen BCA backed candidates facing runoffs, Canary is not having the kind of primary season he promised his board. Canary will need to drain BCA’s dwindling coffers further to post even a few wins in July. At a time when the once prominent organization faces defection from its most prominent members, Canary’s dismal showing in the primaries serves as a reminder of his diminished stature since his greatest ally, Speaker Mike Hubbard, was convicted on 12 felony counts of violating the State’s Ethics Act.
Canary and BCA President Perry Hand are dismissing calls for Canary’s removal, but growing dissatisfaction and an investigation into Hand’s engineering firm, Volkert Inc., may prove more than the pair can bear.
Charlie Walker contributed to this report.