Gaming has pushed governor’s race to back

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

By By Steve Flowers
With all the furor created by our outgoing governor over electronic bingo, the fact that we have a governor’s race has flown completely under the media’s radar screen.
However, this is a premier governor’s race because it is the first gubernatorial contest without an incumbent governor on the ballot in over two decades. The contest has now been ongoing for close to a year.
As early as seven months ago I foolhardily predicted the winners and losers in the 2010 Governor’s Race. With just three months until the June 1 primary, I stand by my prognostications.
If you recall, in early August of 2009 I told you that Bradley Byrne and Tim James would be the top contenders in the Republican primary and that they would eventually be pitted in a GOP runoff to face Democrat Artur Davis in November. I stand solidly behind that scenario. My prediction at that time was based on intuition. Today’s confirmation prognosis is based on fact.
In politics money talks and everything else walks. Money is the mother’s milk of politics. Fundraising began last June. The first campaign finance disclosure reports filed Feb. 1, 2010 were for the period from June 1 through Dec. 31, 2009. There is a direct correlation between money and victory. Therefore, these reports were very telling.
This first half of the campaign is analogous to the first half of a football game. It is time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Who are players and who are pretenders? Tim James and Bradley Byrne are players. They have made it to the Super Bowl while the rest of the GOP field is playing in the minor leagues.
To say that the others are out of the contest at half time would be unfair. However, they are in the same position as a coach of a high school team who finds himself trying to convince his players to go back out on the field and face the New Orleans Saints for the second half when they are already trailing 50-0.
Tim James is the comer in this contest. Byrne was pegged as the early favorite but it is going to be a horserace between these two conservatives. James, the son of former Governor Fob James, is personable and telegenic.
He raised $2.6 million and loaned his campaign another $2 million. Byrne also raised $2.6 million. These two candidates’ fundraising totals are amazing in this economic environment.
These two frontrunners will benefit from the adage that money begets money. There are deep pocketed contributors waiting to see the disclosure reports before they get on board. They will be boarding the James and Byrne bandwagon trains. In fact, a good many large contributors will give to both camps. They both have over $2 million in their war chests as they await the second half.
The gap between James and Byrne and the other also rans is wide. The disparity is very telling. Dr. Robert Bentley raised $144,000. State Treasurer Kay Ivey raised $87,000. Roy Moore received $380,000 in contributions but spent $248,000 leaving him only $127,000 for the second half. Bill Johnson raised $40,000.
Ivey and Bentley may be able to score some points as both have loaned their campaigns a significant amount of their own personal money. If they indeed spend this money they could cause Byrne and James some headaches.
On the Democratic side, Congressman Artur Davis transferred $1 million from his congressional war chest and raised another $1 million. His challenger in the Democratic primary, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, only raised about $165,000. Whether Sparks has any money or not may be irrelevant. This race may be closer than expected. Sparks will benefit from the George Wallace admonition that more folks vote against someone than for someone.
Although this year’s governor’s race is premier, the best race on the ballot will be the intra party Republican battle royale between Luther Strange and incumbent Troy King for Attorney General. Both candidates have raised approximately a million dollars each.
The safest bet on the ballot will be that Democratic Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, Jr. will win an unprecedented fourth term as lieutenant governor. He has raised $572,000. There are three right wing reactionaries vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Folsom. Only one filed a report. He raised $28,000 and has $6000 left to face Folsom in this futile endeavor.
Like lizards they have shown their money. It will be interesting to see how they will spend it.
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 reached at

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