Gov. Bob Riley in full campaign mode

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

By By Steve Flowers
Most political observers including myself have never seen a Governor in his second term work as hard as Gov. Bob Riley. The Constitution prohibits Riley from running for a third term but you would never know that when you look at him everyday. He is in full campaign mode. His ubiquitous daily schedule points to a person running for reelection.
Riley has done an excellent job as Governor, especially in the area of industrial recruitment. This will be his hallmark legacy. He has had to deal with a belligerent overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, which has basically ignored his initiatives, but he has handled the legislative rebukes with aplomb. Riley has run an efficient state government administration and saved the state money in several circumstances. He has a pleasant and positive persona, which projects a good image for the State.
Riley’s backbreaking schedule is heavy on public relations and he has an active team trumpeting his every move in true political fashion. Therefore, the question is where does he go next. The only possible option is to the U.S. Senate, but every indication is that Richard Shelby is not quitting in 2010.
Shelby will only be 74 years old, which is young by Senate standards, plus he is fit and trim and loves what he does. He has reached a pinnacle of respect and power in Washington, which has not been paralleled by any Alabama senator since Lister Hill and John Sparkman. Shelby’s move to the GOP in the early 90’s has helped the Republican Party in Alabama and nationally more than the Party has helped him. He has become a national figure and is perceived as moderate and reasonable.
A glimpse of 2010 is always tempting, given that gubernatorial years are our most interesting political adventures. The big question is, who will be the GOP standard bearer in that open Governor’s race? Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins and Junior College Chancellor Bradley Byrne are both batted around a lot. While GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard and the Governor’s son Rob Riley are not mentioned as much lately. Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, has announced that he will be a candidate and has already retained campaign consultants.
The wildcard is Attorney General Troy King. He has made enormous blunders as Attorney General and the media has really taken him to task for ethical lapses and incompetence. However, King seems to have a Teflon shield. His polling numbers are good. In fact, if the race were held today he would lead the five aforementioned prospects. Therefore, some astute political observers expect him to make the plunge into the Governor’s race, especially given the fact that he will probably receive staunch opposition for reelection as Attorney General from Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, who ran against King in 2006.
The GOP field is unsettled and murky, but it is still very early. One thing is for sure, Luther Strange, who lost to the 2006 Lt. Governor’s race to Jim Folsom by an eyelash, is definitely running for something. He has never stopped running and makes no secret of his intention to be on the ballot in 2010. Some folks speculate he is in the Governor’s race, but most expect him to make another run for Lt. Governor.
Jim Folsom is the odds on favorite to be the Democratic nominee for Governor. However, Congressman Artur Davis may be emboldened by the success Barack Obama has had among white voters nationwide. Artur may make the leap into the Governor’s race. This would give Folsom heartburn and he may opt to stay as Lt. Governor, a job he enjoys a lot more than Governor.
State House Speaker, Seth Hammett, is speaking around the state testing the waters for a possible gubernatorial plunge. Agriculture Commissioner, Ron Sparks, who cannot run for a third term is looking for a place to go. He will probably be in the Lt. Governor’s race unless Folsom stays.
In regards to the 2010 legislative races, most legislators who assumed that voting themselves a gigantic pay raise last year would long be forgotten by election time may be surprised. The anger and resentment continues to reverberate and many voters tell me that they are not going to forget.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at

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