Economy is a black cloud over state politics

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

By By Steve Flowers
I host a 30-minute television show entitled, “Alabama Politics,” which airs on public television.
Most of the gubernatorial candidates have graciously appeared on the show. Invariably I have asked all of them the same question, “Why in the world would you want to be governor?”
The economy has cast an ominous financial cloud over our state government. Gov. Riley has declared historic levels of proration. The entire rainy day savings account is gone. We are surviving on onetime federal stimulus money, which runs out in 2010.
The legislature is currently working to craft a budget, which takes effect in October. It will be a nightmare next year. When the new governor walks into the office in January of 2011 it will be like walking onto the deck of the Titanic. It will be a daunting task for the next governor. They may very well be a one-termer.
The economy will also deflate the amount of campaign money the candidates will be able to raise. Several major players have gone by the way financially. Bobby Lowder and Richard Scrushy are no longer on the scene.
The Indian gambling interests may be hesitant to invest the kind of money they have sent to Alabama in the past because of adverse publicity. The business groups will be affected the most. However, AEA will have the same resources as always.
Several months ago I predicted that Artur Davis and Bradley Byrne would face off in the general election in November. If this is the case, we will be turning the corner politically in Alabama. Alabamians generally have opted to vote for a good old boy for governor. Neither Bradley Byrne nor Artur Davis can be characterized as good old boys.
Take their names for example. Who would have ever thought that someone named Bradley or Artur would be elected Governor of Alabama. Our last 50 years of governors have gone by the names of John, George, Fob, Guy, Don and Bob. Good basic one syllable names.
The name Bradley Byrne connotes someone who is very dignified and sophisticated. Several of his opponents have inferred that he does not quite fit in at the Chitlin Festival or Mule Day the way that George Wallace and Big Jim did. Obviously he has not been driven to run for governor all of his life like Wallace or even Siegelman. If he had this obsession he would have shortened his name to Brad early in life.
The same can be said for Artur Davis. This is a real unusual name for politics. It sounds like he was born to be either a British lord or butler.
He looks like he spent a lot of his youth in a library reading rather than playing football or planning a political career. His entire demeanor exudes someone more cultured and refined than those generally found on the ballot in Alabama.
To say that Bradley and Artur are elitist would be unfair. However, their intellectual and educational achievements exceed that of most past governors. Bradley went to Duke. Artur went to Harvard.
No Alabama governor has ever graduated from Duke or Harvard. These two candidate’s cerebral background and polish make them unique. Siegelman did go to Georgetown for law school after graduating from the University of Alabama as an undergraduate. He was the closest thing to an intellectual governor we have witnessed.
I am reminded of a story about the first time Siegelman met Big Jim Folsom. Siegelman, who was a liberal, admired the progressive Folsom. Big Jim was much folksier than Siegelman.
In trying to impress old Big Jim, a young Siegelman was reciting his educational accomplishments to the former governor. He boasted that he had graduated from Alabama and Georgetown and had done post graduate work at Oxford in England.
Big Jim, who never graduated from college, advised Siegelman that he should tell folks he went to Oxford High School, not Oxford, England.
It would be a change if Alabamians were to elect Bradley Byrne or Artur Davis with their high brow educations and mannerisms. They might just be surprised by a good old boy named Tim, Roy or Ron. It would be more in line with the Alabama of the past.
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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