Two regions of Alabama politically diverse
By By Steve Flowers
All 140 seats in the Alabama Legislature are up for election next year. The Governor’s race, U.S. Senate race and Congressional races are the marquee contests. However, the Legislature is probably the most important triumvirate of all three branches of state government because they divide up the money. Remember the old adage that those who have the gold make the rules. There is another old political saying that rings true especially in Alabama politics that all politics is local. The races for the Legislature and County Sheriff get the most local interest and spur turnout.
The Alabama Education Association is set to have a high profile, front page, battle royale prizefight with GOP gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne. Byrne will make AEA his whipping boy. This battle cry will resonate with the stalwarts of the GOP and will endear Byrne to the Republican base. It will not deter the AEA from giving Byrne all he can handle in return. However, at the end of the day capturing the Governor’s office is gravy for Dr. Hubbert’s fiefdom. AEA’s omnipotent power is gravitated towards controlling and owning the Legislature. They will not want to relinquish control of the House and Senate. Therefore, AEA’s resources and efforts will be primarily directed in that arena.
The AEA’s internal polling is accurate and unbiased. They are of the opinion that Artur Davis will more than likely be the Democratic nominee for Governor but will probably not win in the fall. They are concerned that Artur Davis’ heading the Democratic ticket could hurt some of their Democratic Legislators, especially in North Alabama.
There will be a concerted effort by the GOP to take over the House and Senate. This will be a prodigious challenge given the present numbers. There are currently 61 Democrats and 44 Republicans in the House. However, the decision by Speaker Seth Hammett not to seek reelection has given the GOP hope. It will invigorate their efforts in the House. My guess is that the Republicans will make inroads and increase their numbers incrementally in the 2010 races but will still be in the minority in both chambers when the new Legislature is reorganized in January 2011. My guess is that when the dust settles in November of 2010 there are around 49 Republicans and 56 Democrats in the House. The count should be 19 Democrats and 16 Republicans in the Senate.
There have been three Senate seats vacant during 2009. All three were Democratic seats. Pat Lindsey’s death, Parker Griffith’s ascension to Congress and E.B. McClain’s felony conviction left the seats open for Special Elections. Democrats won two of the three. Marc Keahey defeated Republican Greg Albritton 58 to 42 in the sprawling Lindsey district, which encompasses parts of 8 counties in southwest Alabama. Keahey is a rising star. The 30-year Clarke County lawyer and representative is hoped to be the face of the future of the State Democratic Party.
Two State Representatives were in a runoff to take McClain’s seat in Jefferson County. This is a Democratic seat. No Republican even ran. Priscilla Dunn eked out a victory over her friend Merika Coleman in a congenial battle.
Paul Sanford, a Republican, defeated Democrat Laura Hall in the open Huntsville seat. This is a pickup for the Republicans. The seat has been Democratic since its creation. This gives the GOP 14 seats in the 35 member Senate. This seat will be a battleground in 2010 with both parties going after the seat.
The chairmen of both parties hail from Lee County. Joe Turnham of Auburn will lead the Democrats into battle in 2010, while Mike Hubbard, also of Auburn, will lead the charge for the Republicans.
There will be more attention paid to the 2010 Legislative races by Montgomery special interests than to the Governor’s race. In fact, most of the campaign money will be funneled into the Legislative contests. The race for Speaker of the House will be as important to many political insiders as the Governor’s race. The wildcard in the Legislative races is how critical the legislative pay increase issue will play out with the Alabama electorate. This issue is a time bomb that could explode in the face of some legislative incumbents. It will be interesting to watch.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us.